Q: Communication has become an issue with our family. It seems none of us spend time talking anymore. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m concerned about how it’s affecting our relationships. What can I do to change the situation?
A: You’re wise to work toward reversing this trend. Regular and open conversation is essential to healthy family relationships. Deep down we all want to know and be known, and talking is absolutely crucial to this process.
Family conversation is especially important because it promotes and bolsters a sense of family identity. When children possess a healthy sense of belonging they’re less apt to experiment with risky behaviours and far more likely to develop strong character.
So where to begin? We’d suggest that the dinner table is a good place to start. You can encourage reluctant children by giving them your undivided attention, practicing active listening, and initiating conversation. Use emotion-based rather than fact-based language. In other words, try to get at the feelings family members are experiencing rather than focusing on the things you’ve been doing. It also helps to have something to talk about—common interests, mutual accomplishments, collective memories, meaningful stories, perhaps even a shared family hobby like biking, hiking, or playing board games.
Avoid “yes” or “no” questions as much as possible. Instead, try to come up with personal, open-ended questions. For instance:
- What has been the best and worst part of your week so far? What made it so good or bad?
- What’s the most exciting thing you’ve heard recently?
- If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be and why?
For additional ideas on deepening family relationships, explore our Articles.
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