If there is one common flaw in parenting across all hierarchies, societies, countries and any other constructs, it is that parents and children do not communicate enough. From the cliché “my parents don’t understand me” to the authority parents try to exert over their children’s lives, there are many communication breakdowns over the course of raising a child.
Why are there communication deficits in the first place? Although parents and their children usually live together, they often do not spend enough time with each other, owing in part to their busy schedules. Some parents are out working the whole day, and are too exhausted to spend much time with their children when they come home. Other parents may display judgmental or critical attitudes towards their children, causing the children to believe that they had better keep things to themselves than face their parents’ disappointment. As children get older and become busier with their own lives, they may end up talking to their friends more than their family – an unfortunately common occurrence.
Effective communication between parent and child is one of the most important factors in establishing a healthy relationship. Good communication builds trust and understanding, laying the foundation for healthy self-esteem and better relationships with everyone else. It also allows the parent and child to be open with each other, minimizing the room for misunderstanding and allowing each side to be honest with their feelings without the fear that their views will not be accepted.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for parents to fall into a number of pitfalls when attempting to establish communication with their children. Parents are often threatening, judging or ridiculing the child even if it was not their intention to. Of course, parents should not be praising their children for every task, but instead give praise where it is due. If the parent continuously points out the child’s shortcomings, this could cause a feeling of inadequacy instead of motivation to achieve perfection. Consider a scenario where a child tells their parents that they scored 99 percent on a test. The parents could either commend the child for a good job, or scold the child for not achieving full marks. It may be tempting to hold one’s child to high standards, but this can inadvertently block off future communication and destroy the relationship. If the child was reprimanded, they may feel that scoring full marks is necessary to achieve their parents’ acceptance. Children are creatures of habit, and they may become hesitant to tell their parents about any future scores, especially if the results are worse.
The problem is not always entirely on the parents’ side, however. Some children are naturally rebellious or withdrawn and do not wish to communicate with their parents. Others may experience communication disorders, making it difficult for them to vocalize their thoughts and feelings. In some cases, parents and children may just have very different personalities and both sides do not understand each other. For instance, a child may prefer to spend their time alone, while their parents may be social butterflies. To circumvent possibly misunderstandings, building up mutual understanding is important so that both parties can give and take to facilitate a channel of communication.
Parent-child communication is not just important in early childhood, but also later in life. Children navigating through life will inevitably come to roadblocks along the way. It is common for children to seek advice from their parents on a number of topics as they get older, including relationships, sexual health, friendship, applying for a job and pursuing further education. As our guardians, parents are our first confidants. However, if we cannot even confide in our family, who can we then turn to?
It is definitely important to start with the right building blocks, but what if a family has already started off on the wrong foot? Is the rift in communication still salvageable?
Getting communication back on track can be difficult if there is already some level of distrust or unhappiness on either side. Fortunately, there are social programs specifically engineered to address this divide and re-establish healthy communication between parent and child.
One avenue for getting advice is support groups on the Internet. There are numerous online articles and resources that detail how parents and children can improve their communication with each other. Parents can also connect with other parents who have been through similar difficulties. While these resources are easily accessible, it is up to the parents and children to work on mending their relationship. Simple things such as going out together or even just talking and getting to know one another can be a great way to get things started.
In addition, there are usually local organizations that run social programs designed to help children communicate better with their parents, and vice versa. One example is Advocates for Youth, which organizes a variety of parent-child communication programs intended to help parents broach the topic of sexual health to their adolescents. Given the already sensitive topic, speaking about it to one’s children is even tougher if there is poor communication in the first place. By working on better communication in the family, children will feel that they are able to come to their parents for advice on personal matters like this, thus improving the overall parent-child bond. While not every program may be available in every region, the local family-focused organization will be likely to know some available sessions.
Parents and children could also volunteer for social outreach programs as a family. This is especially helpful if they do not get to spend much time with each other. Although volunteer work does not specifically address communication issues in the family, it facilitates an opportunity for children to work with their parents. Through helping others in need, parents and children can learn more about each other and have something to talk about. This can also decrease the awkwardness adolescents may feel around parents they are not close to.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that no family is perfect. Even when there is healthy communication between parents and children, misunderstandings and communication breakdowns will still happen. It is also difficult for distant family members to miraculously feel united over just one program. Working on better communication is definitely a step in the right direction, but as with everything else in a family, it takes time and dedication to make things better. Families should not feel discouraged and stop trying, but rather keep up the effort and watch it finally pay off.
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