Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Family Communication

Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

There is so much to say about communication that I'm finding it difficult to find a place to start. Sometimes that's also how we feel as parents, trying to communicate everything we need to express to our children. Thinking about all that needs to be said and done can leave us feeling overwhelmed, and that can lead to sending messages that we didn't mean to send.

So I think it's valuable to always keep the big picture in mind. The big picture is that everything you do can be an expression of love and appreciation for your children and family. I don't mean this in a sappy Pollyanna-ish way, but in a very realistic way. Think about it, even when you get angry at your kids and yell, isn't it because you care? That doesn't mean that yelling is the best way to communicate
your care and concern, but let's start with the positive - you care! Then we can figure out better ways to communicate that care and concern for the well being of your children and family.

There are 5 methods of expressing love and care toward others and the good news is that you can do many of them at the same time. We often think of communication as mostly being verbal or written, or possibly body language, but there is so much more than that. I recommend reading the books in the "The 5 Love Languages" series to learn more on this topic. Here are some ideas for keeping the big picture in mind as we communicate our love and concern within the family:

  1. Words of Encouragement - Even after a disagreement or scolding, you can take the edge off by reminding your child that you love them, that you really do care. Admitting to our own mistakes and shortcomings can also help a child accept and admit to their own. Also, by learning about your child's unique personality you can find words and ways to encourage them through the various stages of development they will go through. 
  2. Quality Time - Some of us may spend a lot of time with our kids, and others may find their time is limited for various reasons. The amount of time is not nearly as important as what is being experienced during that time. Doing things your child likes to do as well as being supportive of your child's interests apart from you are both significant. Once again, depending on your child's age and personality, find out how you can help your child feel loved and cared for during that time.
  3. Physical Touch - Some of us are huggers and some are not, this is also true of your children. All children of all ages need a hug, a kiss or a pat on the back from time to time, but some need more than others. You also may have a different need from your child. Parents and children should feel free to express appropriate physical affection toward one another, but a certain degree of sensitivity toward what the other person needs or wants is necessary.
  4. Acts of Service - Children learn how to care for others first by how we care for them. At some point though we have to help them transition from being cared for, to becoming a care-giver. Having a pet is a beginning, also babysitting or helping the elderly. However the most impact will be from our daily activities in the home. Cleaning up and doing chores are ways that we can serve each other, get things done, and for some people it doubles as quality time or time to spend talking in meaningful ways.
  5. Gifts - A gift can be as simple as baking brownies for a treat, or a new piece of clothing at an unexpected time. The point of a gift is that it lets the receiver know that you were thinking about them, and what they like or need, because you care. Be aware that gifts are more important to some than others based on their personality and love language (and it's not the same as buying love).
Keeping the big picture in mind is remembering that the purpose of our communication is to build loving relationships. It can be difficult when each of us has different needs and expectations, but being aware is the first step. Learning how to do and say things in a way that communicates love and caring to the other person is the next step. That doesn't mean you'll never have a fight or disagreement, but it means you will know how to work through those problems and heal any hurt feelings or misunderstandings along the way.


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