Building up Healthy Communication – an article by our content contributor, Ruby Phillips.
I long for better conversations at home. It’s my own doing, I know. I get busy at work and sometimes, if I’m brutal with myself, I know that I can do better at home when it comes to meaningful conversations. We talk about the relationship between expectation and agreement and how this plays out at home is as important, if not more so, than in a work setting.
“I never knew you had work on that day…”
“What do you mean you’re working again?”
“Who is that big customer you’re working with?”
“Daddy, I told you about this!”
“Why is Daddy grumpy again?”
All things we hear at home, aren’t they? But it must come down to us to take responsibility to have better conversations with our loved ones and our kids that make the home experience all the more special. I’m glad Ruby – part of the Dads In Business team – felt compelled to write this piece about better conversations as a busy working Dad. I think you’ll take a lot from it and I encourage you to grasp the actions and recommendations mentioned.
Better conversations as a working Dad…
Let’s talk about talking.
In a family dynamic it inevitable that there will be some difficult conversations along the way, or difficulties having conversations. In this article we will look at some healthy ways to approach conversations at home and work towards forming stronger bonds through active communication. These tips can be used to resolve issues, or to simply to help conversations flow better at home
Ways to Have Better Conversations at Home
Here are some things to think about before you address something:
- Are you approaching this from a calm headspace, or from a place of anger? Try to open the conversation positively, from a steady mind.
- Is this the right time and place? Will you all be able to go away and reflect on the conversation in your own space? Avoid times where stress is already high / either side has something to do afterwards that requires a clear head.
- Before you open the conversation, give up the need to be right. This is crucial to ensure that you don’t get tunnel vision and are able to listen to all sides attentively for a healthy conversation.
If you are wanting to have a family discussion, you could walk out into nature to take the issue out of the house and somewhere neutral. It is calming to be out in the fresh air and away from reality, which could help to diffuse any tension, or aid healthy flowing conversations for quality family time!
Things to think about whilst having conversations with partners:
- Rule number one: always listen while your partner is speaking. It sounds simple, but the moment someone feels unheard or talked over, the less they will want to cooperate in the conversation. Your partner should do the same for you. If this is something you have historically struggled with, try outlining your needs first: ‘I really need us to listen to each other without interrupting, so that we can both have our say’. Reflect on each other’s points to show you are listening.
- Try to focus on what your partner is saying in the moment rather than what you will reply once they finish speaking (easier said, but it is important!) to fully give your attention.
- Say exactly what you mean, your partner is not a mind reader. You should work together to create an open and honest safe space to talk things through in a calm way. Choose your words carefully and sensitively!
- Keep control over your tone of voice and read your partners body language. Making each other feel safe and secure is a priority.
- Give each other reassurance that it is good you are talking about things, or just talking more in general, and that practicing healthy communication, as hard as it might feel, will ultimately benefit your relationship.
Ways to have better conversations with your kids
Talking with your kids is a completely different ball game, and the way you speak with them will depend on their age and development. With young kids, it is often matter of wording things in a way they can understand truly and making them feel safe, with patience.
With older kids and teens, it might involve trying new ways to reach out to gain a better understanding and relationship.
Trying to communicate with your kids might feel frustrating at times, so here are some techniques to try:
Tips for better communication with young kids:
- Keep it simple. Young children take things very literally, so being direct and clear with what you mean is key.
- Use eye contact and be honest. It is difficult sometimes to know how to sugar coat things or not upset young children, living in a world where children are exposed to things younger and younger, but giving them honesty and making them feel listened will encourage them to come to you again about things.
- Have conversations with your kids, whatever age, about things you think they should know. This could be conversations to protect them, as it is best that these things are learnt from you, a safe source, such as teaching them about personal space and who can and can’t touch you ‘you must tell Mummy and Daddy if an adult who isn’t us touches you, because they aren’t allowed to’. They learn predominantly from you what is and isn’t okay in human behaviour and interaction.
- Reassure them, tell your kids ‘Daddy loves you. You are safe.’ This allows them to open up to you.
- Ask them about what they already know to get to know them / fill in gaps for them.
Here is a good read for conversations with all different age groups: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-difficult-subjects
Tips for better communication with older kids and teens:
- Teens are tricky to communicate with, that’s a fact. We’ve all been there! To try and open dialogue, encourage them to talk by letting them know you want to hear their side and opinions. This leaves the door open for them if they need to come to you for a problem, or just a chat!
- Ask them about their lives, and interests, and offer them advice. Let them know your values so that they can learn them from you, such as treating others with respect and kindness, and how you would go about this in their situations. Try not to force it upon them, be gentle and let them know you care.
- This is a hard one! Try to be patient and understanding of outbursts. Telling your moody teenagers that their hormones are flaring up probably won’t calm them down, but it can often explain a random mood swing. Let them know you’re here to talk when they have cooled off. Don’t take it personally.
- Encourage their growth and small achievements such as helping with housework or creating something, as teens and older children still need that encouragement and validation.
- In balance of patience and kindness, you should be straight forward and stand your ground with teens too. Stick to your rules and encourage good behaviour. If they know that lenience will come alongside their cooperation and good behaviour, they are more likely to be more conscious about how they are acting. If you let them bully you into being lenient, they will continue to seek it this way (it is easier for them to be angry and not earn lenience and rewards- teens can be lazy if you didn’t know!)
Further reading from the Dads In Business archive.
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