Single Parenting #6 by James Windell

5 Communication Skills that Should be Practiced Daily

Perhaps one positive thing that comes out of your experience of being a single parent is a recognition of the importance of communication. If you are going to parenting by yourself, you know that maintaining positive communication with your child, especially when they are adolescents, is essential to a happy and healthy family.

Not only do you have to communicate about their father to help them deal with the loss, but you need to make sure they are coping with life, and the only real way of knowing how well they are doing is by talking to them and having them talk to you.

If a teenager develops a problem, most often there will be some kind of communication deficits in his relationships. So, while most teens want to keep some part of their life private from their parents, there is no question that in order to be an effective parent you have to teach – and practice – communication skills regularly starting when your child is young. That’s the only way you can be fairly sure you won’t be caught unawares of what your teenager is thinking or doing.

There are five important steps to healthy communication. Live these steps starting now and you can reduce the risk of your child keeping serious problems or concerns from you.

1. Have an open-door policy: Lots of teenagers have said something like this to me: “But I couldn’t talk to my mother about that.” And I always ask why not. Their answers usually came down to this: their parent maintained a closed-door policy. There were issues and problems that couldn’t be talked about. Instead, encourage your child to come to you to talk about anything and everything. No question or problem should be too silly, too embarrassing, or too unimportant. When your child comes to you to talk, always take it seriously.

2. Teach communicate skills: You want your child to put feelings into words. Teach him how to do this. Encourage him when he’s frustrated or mad to tell you how he’s feeling. When he does tell you how he feels, make sure you respond positively, further encouraging him to always use language.

3. Have patience and be a good listener: This is an important part of communicating, too. It takes a lot of patience with children to hear what they’re saying and to show interest using eye contact and giving appropriate responses. No matter how busy you are, don’t neglect to take the time to help your child tell you what she’s thinking or what’s bothering her. And while she’s doing that, listen carefully.

4. Be responsive: You don’t have to solve every issue or give wise advice every time. Often children aren’t looking for advice anyway. They need a parent who will listen, show they are interested, and will respond appropriately. An appropriate response might be asking clarifying questions, supporting their plans to deal with the problem, or simply nodding at the right times.

5. Be a positive communicator: How many communications take place between you and your child every day? Dozens? Maybe hundreds? Whatever the number, you can be sure there are many communications that take place every day. But if many or most of your communications are negative experiences for your child (by your failure to listen, by your rejecting their ideas or thoughts, or by your making them feel like their problems are trivial), what does this teach your child? It may teach him that communication with you isn’t worth it. Use positive communication instead. Let him know you appreciate him coming to you to talk, encourage his plans or ideas, and support his efforts to talk with you rather than keeping things to himself.

By following these steps to healthy communication, you will be a mother who will have children who appreciate your willingness to talk about anything and they will learn to be good communicators with other people in their lives.