One of the primary focal points at The Family Center is, ultimately, the family. It’s our primary source of support and development from childhood on, with communication as the root of both problems and benefits. When it comes to mental health issues, involving the entire family can make a huge difference in the success or failure of the selected treatment. Even in the absence of a specific dysfunction, working with a family, as one unit, can have its distinct advantages. However, it’s not always easy to get everyone together in one session. So, today we’ll share some basic tips you can use to maintain the lines of communication in your own home:
- Make time.
It sounds simple, right? However, this can be one of the hardest tasks for some families. Between all of the extracurricular activities available now, and the ever-present distraction that is technology, spending quality time together isn’t as easy as it used to be. While there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what “quality” means, there are some staples that seem to be successful in most situations.
For example, try to preserve the family meal. Regardless of who’s cooking, or what time it’s served, the simple act of sharing food can be an invaluable tool to keep everyone updated. This is where you turn off the TV, put away the cell phones, and recap your day. Being available for children to discuss what may be troubling them is essential for good communication. Plus, they tend to respond well to routine; so, if they know they’ll have an opportunity to air everything on a daily basis, they’ll feel more supported. If sitting down for dinner isn’t possible, you can use time in the car, after school, or before bed to create a similar situation.
- Be a leader.
If you expect your family members to open up to you, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same? Especially as children grow into adolescents, they need to know that even adults struggle. Sharing your daily experiences can be a great opportunity to practice problem solving with everyone, and you could even get some applicable advice out of it!
Pay special attention to your tone and word choices, though. Whether you realize it or not, you’re modeling behavior that your children might use in the future. So, when you’re angry, try to use words to express how you’re feeling, rather than yelling and/or being mean. Not only will it make it easier to talk through the problem, but also, it’ll teach positive behavior that will improve the family dynamic for years to come.
- Listen more than you speak.
While opening up is a part of the process, as a parent, you should practice the 80/20 rule. This means that only about 20 percent of your interactions with your children should involve you as the primary speaker. The rest should just be listening—actively listening. To be sure you’ve understood their problem, you can repeat their words back to them, and then offer advice at the end. Also, make sure you carefully consider what you’re saying before you contribute.
As a parent, it can be too easy at times to react first, particularly when your child has done something to upset you. If they’ve come to talk to you about it, though, the last thing you want to do is blow up on them, because that’ll likely be the only time they ever do so. By giving yourself time to process, you can tap more into your empathy and continue to model good behavior for other family members to emulate.
If your family is struggling to implement these techniques and/or your communication issues are too firmly entrenched, come to The Family Center! As our name suggests, we work with this integral unit as a whole with a combination approach specifically designed for your situation. Call us today to see how we can help you.