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About This Resource

What It Does

This article will teach you about:

How to communicate better with your family
How to help your children improve their listening habits

How It Helps

This tool will help you:

Have more fulfilling relationships with others
Become a better listener

This article will teach you about:

How to communicate better with your family
How to help your children improve their listening habits

This tool will help you:

Have more fulfilling relationships with others
Become a better listener

In addition to resources like this one, Homewood Health and Kids Help Phone also offer 24/7 confidential counselling at no cost.

If you'd like to speak to somebody, you can call or text the numbers below:

📞 Phone. Call 1-866-585-0445 (Adults) or 1-888-668-6810 (Youth) to speak with a counsellor.

📱 Text (SMS). Text WELLNESS to 741741 (Adult) or 686868 (Youth) to connect with a trained volunteer crisis responder for support.

However, If you’re interested in finding more resources like this one, including self-guided courses, webinars, peer-to-peer support groups, live counselling, mindfulness meditations, and more, you can create an account for free. You’ll also be able to complete a wellness assessment and track your progress towards your wellness goals.

Today, kids and parents face a lot of pressure. Maintaining quality family relationships is more important than ever. Yet, we’re not always as effective at communicating as we need to be. This can create unintended problems.

Open, honest, and effective communication is critical for any relationship. If you would like to improve communication with your children, here are some simple suggestions that can make a difference.

  • Be respectful. Communication involves talking and listening. When your children are talking, do your best to give them your full attention. Active listening is critical.

  • Tune into feelings. When children talk to their parents about something concerning, it can be hard for them to express their feelings. It’s important to tune into their feelings and help them put those feelings into words. In this way, you show them that you understand. You also validate their feelings.

  • Create time to talk. Sometimes communication doesn’t happen unless we make time for it. Ensure your family enjoys a meal together as often as possible. Make it a point to involve the whole family in the conversation.

  • Make eye contact. Looking at someone eye to eye when having a conversation lets them know that you are listening. It signals that what they have to say is important. When talking and listening to young children, lower yourself (physically) to their level.

  • Think before speaking. When children ask for your opinion or help, take a few minutes to think about it. Ask them to think about it as well. When you come together again, you can both share your thoughts. If you need to have a tough conversation with your child, think through what you are going to say and questions that might come up.

  • Be aware of non-verbal communication. This includes facial expressions, body language, or periods of silence. Children can sense it when your verbal and non-verbal communication do not match.

  • Let them finish speaking. Do you finish your child’s sentences or change the subject to say something that’s on your mind? This can leave your child thinking that talking to you is a waste of time.

  • Be approachable. If children think they’ll be judged or get a lecture every time they talk about an idea or personal experience, they will shut down. Take their concerns seriously — empathize and listen. If you do this with the small stuff, they are more likely to discuss important matters with you.

The bottom line

The late humourist Erma Bombeck once said, “It seems rather incongruous that in a society of super-sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”

"Communication involves both talking and listening. The ability to really listen to what is being said is something we are not always taught to do, yet when we employ active listening skills, our communication and our relationships improve dramatically."

Sometimes when children have problems, their parents’ efforts at “listening” result in lecturing. Unsolicited advice doesn’t help children share their feelings. This can result in kids becoming reliant on people outside their families. They may also develop inadequate decision-making skills as they grow up. Parents who don’t listen to their children’s ideas or show respect for what they say may end up with teenagers who live in a world of their own.

Improve your children’s listening habits

  • When reading to young children, encourage them to ask questions and comment on the story.

  • As children get older, establish “listening opportunities.” Block out distractions and make it a point to listen to one another.

  • Teach children to show they are listening. If they are preoccupied with playing, let them know it is helpful to show by their expressions that they are listening.

  • Be a good role model. Pay attention while your children speak to you.

  • Give children positive feedback if they demonstrate good listening skills.

Here’s how to be a better listener yourself:
  • Ensure a respectful attitude, concentrate on what is being said, and maintain eye contact.

  • Be silent, pay attention, and don’t think about how you will respond.

  • Avoid too many probing questions like “why?” This can shift the focus from listening and trying to understand feelings, to analyzing.

  • Be sensitive about when to talk and when to keep quiet.