Developing healthy communication is the foundation for good relationships. Healthy communication is a lot more than what to say and not to say to your children. It’s about developing an environment where your children feel safe; respected; and that their feelings, fears, failures and successes can be shared with someone who loves them. Sometimes, it’s about how we respond to our children when we are feeling stress, anxiety or anger. Here are some ideas for ways to take action to promote healthy communication with your children.

Ask yourself:

  • When you think about your experience as a child, what kinds of things made you feel trust? Either that you could trust someone, or that someone trusted you?
  • What kinds of activities made you feel close to your parents or other trusted adults?
  • What did your parents, or other important adults in your life do to make you feel that your feelings were heard?

Create a Family Time Activity Ideas List

As parents, when we are stressed or short on time and patience, it can be difficult to think of fun things to do with our children. One strategy to help us have more fun and decrease stress is to create a list of fun activities before they are needed and pull them out when you need them.

Parent Story: We have two children, ages 7 and 2. They have different interests and abilities, so when we have 20 minutes of time at home that we can play together, it’s hard to think of things that we can all do together. One night, I wrote down a list of activities that include everyone. The list included things like: Blow bubbles, build a blanket fort, pretend we are a marching band, make a train with chairs and stuffed animals, dance party, etc.

I wrote the ideas on small pieces of paper and put them in a basket. The next time they were running around, needing some of my attention, I was able to engage both of them in this new game. We all had a wonderful time, and every time we are at home alone together, they ask to play the “basket game.”

Create a Gratitude Jar

Research shows that people who focus on gratitude are happier, healthier, and less stressed. You can help develop stronger communication and a practice of gratitude with your children through a Gratitude Jar. Once a day, every person in the family receives a small piece of paper and writes or draws something that she or he is thankful for. Put them in the jar, and once a week, come together as a family and review the things that you are thankful for together. This activity will help your family practice positive communication.

Conversation Starters

If you find yourself having a hard time finding the right words to start a conversation with your child, try some of these conversation starters.

  • How did you feel when your friend yelled at you like that? Was it OK for your friend to throw things when she was angry? How else do you think she could have expressed herself?
  • I noticed that you thought that the boys making fun of the girls in that movie was pretty funny. At first, I thought it was funny, too. But what do you think about that situation when it happens in real life? Do you think it’s OK for guys to do that? What do you think that the boys would have done differently if they were being respectful of the girls?