Communication is one of the most valuable life skills you can help your children to develop. It will benefit them in their relationship with themselves, their relationships with others and their success at work. Good communication skills give people the tools they need to navigate challenging situations with confidence.
Thankfully, communication is a skill that improves with practice. It’s not an inborn skill but one that can be learned. You can help your children develop stellar communication skills with intentional practice that suits their age and development. Here are seven smart ways to make your children strong communicators.
1. Have Dinner Together
Research shows that children who regularly eat dinner with their parents are healthier, do better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Dinner is a great time to catch up on the events of the day and find out how your kids are feeling. It’s also a prime opportunity to practice healthy communication.
Parents can set an example by putting away distractions like cell phones and iPads. Some suggestions for conversation are to go over the “highs and lows” of the day or each person can talk about something new they’re learning. Try to keep the conversation light and fun – this isn’t a business meeting or disciplinary session.
2. Teach Emotional Intelligence
Emotions are a primary component of communication. Unfortunately, many adults never learn to understand and regulate their emotions. Some people are afraid of strong emotions, while others allow every passing feeling to dictate how they engage with others. You can set up your child for a resilient and happy future by guiding them emotionally.
This starts at a very young age when your kids learn to identify and respond to their emotions. Feelings are always valid, but they aren’t good leaders. They help us learn but aren’t the final lesson. For example, your child may feel angry when a friend wants to play with their toys. You can help them express their anger in a healthy way and give them a bigger perspective.
3. Practice Critical Thinking
Another way to help your child develop strong communication skills is by practicing critical thinking with them. This starts with teaching them the right questions to ask when they enter a new situation. Young children do this instinctively because they’re curious to learn about everything around them.
As your kids get older, you can teach them to evaluate sources of information. This is an invaluable skill for people throughout their lives. The goal of critical thinking isn’t to cultivate suspicion but rather to gain a healthy dose of wisdom. Teach your kids to ask the right questions so they can learn to think for themselves.
4. Listen to Them
Unfortunately, many people don’t practice listening – instead, they’re simply waiting for a turn to speak. People who listen just to listen are few and far between. However, this skill is invaluable for communication. Listening helps people to learn more about each other and identify the innermost core of a problem or new idea.
You can help your kids learn to listen and know when it’s time for them to speak up. Practice having conversations where you simply listen to your children, asking questions so you can more fully understand what they’re thinking. Your children have been born into a world where everyone wants to be heard. However, listening to others affirms their value and makes space for everyone to express their thoughts.
5. Model Humility
Humility is another quality of strong communication and it goes hand-in-hand with listening well. No one wants to talk to someone who thinks they already know everything. Teach your children to be honest about their limitations and ask for help when they need it. Admitting weakness is one of the strongest things they can do.
As an imperfect parent, you also have the opportunity to model apologies to your children. Nothing will undermine your children’s respect for you like hypocrisy. When you mess up, own it. Apologize and do your best to repair any damage your actions have caused. Apologies can be hard to swallow, but they’re essential for healthy relationships.
6. Read Books Together
According to a 2020 Gallup Poll, over half of American adults between the ages of 16 and 74 can’t read above a sixth-grade reading level. As a parent, you can personally ensure that your child has strong reading skills by reading books together from a young age. When your kids get older, limit their screen time and provide a shelf of books or a library card instead.
Reading develops empathy and helps kids learn about new cultures and ideas from all over the world. It can broaden your child’s mind and help them live a thousand lives in the space of one. Like communication, learning to read is a skill that improves with practice. Developing this skill will help your child grow and succeed throughout their lives.
7. Refuse to Gossip
Your kids are paying attention to how you talk to and about others. One of the most valuable communication skills you can teach them is to avoid speaking badly of others behind their backs. Good communication builds trust and establishes safe environments where people can thrive.
Instead of gossiping about others, teach your kids how to respect and honor the people they meet. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discuss poor behavior or acknowledge issues within relationships. It’s important to teach your kids discernment. However, you can model treating other people with respect in your conversation.
Building Life Skills
Strong communication skills will take your children far in life. You can cultivate communication skills by eating together and teaching your kids how to respond to their emotions. Practice asking good questions together and really listen to your kids’ thoughts.
Stay humble and create a reading environment at home. Avoid gossip and your kids will learn that the ultimate purpose of communication is to build relationships, not tear them apart.