Every parent hopes to build a strong relationship full of trust with their children. Parents want their children to feel as though they can come forward with any issue and talk about it. Open communication feels like it should be the foundation of a strong family unit.
However, there are a variety of things that can get in the way of that. Certain family dynamics may make children feel as though they need to keep certain information to themselves or even that they need to lie in some situations. As children get older and turn into teenagers, these bonds are especially tested, and open communication can be extra difficult to maintain.
Creating a parent-child connection full of open and honest conversation is something that starts at a young age. Building trust and respect on both sides is one of the most important steps. As you work to build this foundation with your child, here are some strategies you can employ.
Building Communication Skills
Communication is the foundation of our culture. It is much more than stringing a handful of syllables and letters together; rather, it is a critical element of sharing emotions and understanding. Great communication skills involve not only the ability to share information, but also the ability to listen, process information being shared, and show empathy.
Things you can do to help bolster your child’s communication skills include practicing active listening when they are telling you stories — being the model of good communication skills is one of the most effective ways to instill the ability in your kids. Games that prioritize expressing emotions, taking turns, and self-awareness are great activities to help with communication skills for all ages.
In today’s world, it is also important for parents to extend positive communication skills into the digital world. Online settings make it easier for bad behavior and poor communication to proliferate. Setting ground rules and teaching children the value of good digital communication can be challenging, but parents are up to the task.
Communication skills are a key foundational piece of an open and honest relationship with your child. But all the communication skills in the world will not be much without the second piece of the puzzle: trust. Building a bond of trust with children is a slow process that involves time spent together as a family, following through on promises, and creating a safe space for all types of conversations.
A strong trust relationship can be built on thousands of simple actions. For example, if your child is afraid of the dentist, you can prepare them by talking openly about it before the appointment and offering positive reinforcement. You could promise a special activity or treat if they do well at the appointment and follow through.
Your children trusting you is one thing, but solidifying trust is a two-way street. As a parent, you also need to show that you trust your child to make the right decisions. It can start by giving them responsibilities from an early age. Trusting your child to complete these tasks and to explore their own independence can be one of the most meaningful ways to build a strong bond of open and honest communication from an early age.
Ultimately all of this trust-building will add up. At a young age, the trust you’ve built and the safe space you’ve created may help prevent your child from telling you lies. Once they become teenagers, this trusting relationship may be what encourages them to call you and trust they won’t be in deep trouble when they’ve made a mistake and are in a difficult situation.
Open and honest communication is something that all parents strive for with their children. Creating that foundation requires building both communication skills and a bond of trust from an early age. Modeling good communication behavior, following through on promises, and trusting your children with certain responsibilities are great places to start.