One of my main areas of focus in working with families is helping them to recognize the importance of establishing healthy parent and child communication. While your children battle issues of hormones, desiring more autonomy, confronting peer pressure and searching for an identity, parents are also dealing with many obstacles and questions as well. Some of these include:
1) How much independence do I grant?
2) Do I continue to implement consequences and if so, what is effective?
3) How do I set healthy boundaries and limit conflict?
4) What questions am I allowed to ask my child?
5) What expectations should I have for my child?
There is no doubt that effective communication between you and your child may increase the likelihood that your children will avoid many of the pitfalls of adolescence such as substance abuse, succumbing to negative peer pressure, delinquency, criminal activity, and sexual promiscuity. In addition, effective communication is the cornerstone for having a healthy and satisfying relationship with your children.
During childhood and especially adolescence, your child is striving to gain independence, yet still retain close ties to the family. I have often noticed a correlation between healthy parent-child communication and how it can impact self-esteem, academic achievement, and emotional intelligence.
It’s extremely important to create an atmosphere within your family system that promotes a healthy dialogue between you and your child.
As parents, the goal here is to foster a safe environment in which all family members are free to discuss whatever topics they need to discuss without judgment. In addition, in developing and practicing healthy communication, sensitive issues that arise during adolescence, such as sexuality and substance abuse, can be discussed with greater success and ease.
Finding time to communicate with your child may prove to be a challenge, considering your busy schedule. You would be surprised how beneficial it can be to just devote a few minutes each day to actively listen to your child. Keep in mind that some of the issues they are dealing with may be uncomfortable for them to speak about and it should be treated with caution and empathy. Let your child know that you value their point of view. You don’t have to agree with them, but confirmation and validation of a child’s thoughts and feelings is an essential and often overlooked step.
Dr. Scott Koenig, Psy.D.