In a family, all members need to help each other to
communicate well. The lack of this skill causes a great deal of
unnecessary heartache not only between parents and children but
between husbands and wives.
The late Erma Bombeck once said that the only thing she and
her son talked about was her objection to his long hair style.
One day he came home with his hair cut and they found they had
nothing more to say to each other. She humorously added:”Thank
God, he started to grow a beard.” Do not let this happen in your
You will know there is a problem if the interchange between
you and your children is always negative and accusatory and the
only topics discussed revolve around homework, school grades and
clean bedrooms. You and your spouse have a problem if your only
topic of conversation is disagreement over money. If you sense
there is a lack of communication in your family, the first thing
to do is to make time to develop and to practice this skill.
The best time is mealtime.
When talking to children, it is best not to ask too many
questions. Children sometimes resent them and view them as a
demand on the part of the adult for a response. Statements work
better because they are an invitation to respond. Instead of
saying,”How are you feeling?” say “I have the feeling that
something is bothering you.” Or, “You seem pleased about
something.” Statements like these give children the choice
whether to respond or not and most children accept the
In a family restaurant one Sunday morning, a young father
sat down at the table next to me with his ten or eleven year old
daughter. The father seemed excited about spending this private
time with her. They ordered her favorite meal and the father
then began to talk about the trip they would be taking to
California. He said she would see the ocean for the first time
and giant redwood trees. There was little response from the
girl. Although she seemed interested, she apparently did not
know how to communicate this interest to her father.
After several minutes all conversation stopped. Luckily
their breakfast arrived and they busied themselves with eating
it. When they finished, there was more silence and they finally
left. The whole scenario took about half an hour.
This happens in many families. I think fathers have an
easier time with sons because they can talk about sports. Sports
talk fills up time and does not require much deep communication.
I believe that is why most men get involved with spectator
sports. It fills up the void. It should not be like this.
Adults should be able to communicate better with each other and
to model this skill for their children.
One thing parents can always do and all children seem to
enjoy is to reminisce about the time they were children. This
father could have talked about the time he went out to eat with
his father and what they talked about. He could talk about how
much he enjoyed just being with his father even though he did not
always know what to say. Or, he could talk about something that
happened at work he enjoyed. The father could also have told his
daughter about a book he just read. In this case, it could have
been a story about something that happened long ago in
California. In this way, the father would have served as a role
model for his daughter. With continued similar encounters, she
eventually would learn how to communicate with him and with
encouragement from him begin to practice the skill herself.
Knowing how to communicate is just as important as knowing
how to read and to write and its development cannot be left to
chance. Make time now for you and your family to learn and to
practice this skill. It is the parent’s responsibility as well
as the school’s.