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Communication tips

Young people often tell Kids Helpline they find it difficult to communicate with their parents. Here are some tips around helping you and your child communicate well together.

Mother and daughter talking together

What is great communication?

Conveying our message is only one part of communication. Great communication goes further and allows us to build trust, self-esteem and strong healthy relationships.

  • Great communication is a two-way process. Listening is as important as talking
  • Your child’s brain is still developing including learning to handle their emotions and communicate well
  • Successful communication with your child depends on what, how, when, where and why you say things. What you don’t say is also important!

Communication styles

The way we communicate differs based on gender, cultural background, age and the situation.

It’s likely you and your child have different communication expectations because of the generation gap.

However, in general there are three communication styles. The first is more helpful when compared with the other two.

Assertive communication – not blaming others and taking turns to listen
Passive communication – giving the silent treatment and avoiding conflict
Aggressive communication – being forceful, not listening, harsh and blaming

“Kids learn to communicate through watching those around them. They need us to show them how” – John, parent of a 17 year old

How can you support great communication with your child?

It’s easy to expect more of your child than they can give. They are on an emotional (and hormonal) rollercoaster during certain stages of growing up.

Here are some ideas to help you be a great communication role model:

Notice your own communication style and make changes if aggressive or passive

Encourage face-to-face instead of electronic or online communication

Teach your child about the three communication styles

Hit pause – take time to calm down, think and then talk further

Plan how, where and when to talk – also know what not to say

Summarise to your child what you heard them say

Ask questions and share concerns, rather than assume and criticise

Don’t avoid conflict – calmly take the lead in facing it

What if communication has broken down?

You might feel powerless when you and your child can’t talk effectively about difficult matters.

  • You could try sticking to safe topics, while you work out what to do

  • Tell them you care and will do all you can to work this out

  • Sometimes it can help to have a calm third person involved to support communication between you

  • If you have concerns about your child’s development of communication skills for their age, check in with your doctor

  • Remember, you and your child are not alone - they can talk to Kids Helpline and you can talk to a Parentline counsellor in your State or Territory

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018

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