Navigating the best way to communicate in a parent-child relationship can be difficult (whether your children are young or grown). Each relationship and situation is unique, but being able to effectively communicate is an important foundation for building a safe and healthy relationship and loving connection.  

Here are 3 ways you can improve connection in your own relationship with your child:

Communicate How They Communicate
Every person is different. So are the ways in which people prefer to communicate. Being open to communicating how your child prefers to communicate is very important. You may be able to talk for hours, but your child may be more reserved. Instead of sitting down and pigeon-holing your child into a very direct conversation, it may be better to just spend quality time with them and allow them to communicate with you when they feel comfortable. Or, if you have a very talkative child, having a more direct conversation may be the way to go. Observe how your child communicates with others and decide from that how to best go about communicating in a way that is comfortable to them.

Actively listening, or “mirroring” is one of the best ways to make someone feel cared for. So often, we are not fully listening, but instead, we’re thinking of what we want to say in response or advice we want to give. Non-verbal communication is often more powerful than words; making eye contact, keeping your breathing steady, and open body language all let your child know that you’re present with them and what they have to say is important to you. You can deepen the connection by mirroring them – repeating gently back to them what they said and asking them if you got it. Hearing their own words coming from you lets them know you heard them and helps them feel safe to share their thoughts with you. Give your full attention when your child is talking and reflect back to them what you heard them say before you launch into giving advice or stating your case…this will show your child that you care as much about their feelings as about what you want to say next.

Avoid Being Overly-Critical
In conversations with your child, it is so important to listen to their feelings. Discounting how they feel or responding with criticism can, over time, drive a wedge in your relationship. Being able to respond to your child with understanding and openness will create safety. Even when you disagree, your child will know that they don’t have to be intimidated when communicating with you. As they get older, this helps grow a healthy and mutually respectful relationship of communication.

Being able to talk without criticism, listen without judgment, and connect beyond differences is an important part of a healthy relationship, including the one that you have with your kids. Take the time to evaluate how you communicate with your child. Consider how to effectively communicate in your parent-child relationship. It will not only help build a stronger bond now but will have lasting ripple effects for years to come!