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Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Post: How to Teach Your Children to Communicate

The following is a guest post by Monta Fleming. Thank-you Monta, for the great article.

I grew up predominately in the 60’s. My dad was a no nonsense kind of guy who was pretty much of the mindset that children were to be seen and not heard. He was brought up in the east and his folks were doing quite well, even the Great Depression didn’t have an adverse effect on his folks. He was the youngest, quite spoiled, and only boy. He made up his mind before we were born that we wouldn’t grow up spoiled. We would take on the world without his help because he was not going to spoil us. He saw how it had made life harder for him. None of that for us, no siree Bob! (And his name was Bob.) He did teach us how to work. That was dad’s contribution to us and it was a good one, I’m very thankful.

My mom was raised a housewife, working from sun up to sun down cleaning, cooking, and making sure we were clean and healthy. Mom mainly talked about housework and cooking to me. Since I was the only girl she wanted to make sure I knew how to cook and clean. She would sit me up on the counter as a very young child and show me how to make a pie from scratch, homemade noodles, or the proper way to cut and cook vegetables. She instructed me on the proper way to make a bed, iron, and do laundry. These were great things to learn, I have never regretted having these skills. She was an extremely loving, protective, and nurturing woman who would protect you with her life. She was poor growing up, with an alcoholic father (who still loved through the alcohol) and a mom who taught her just like she taught me. But communication about ideas, feelings, and life information she did not share. As I look back at mom’s young upbringing I’m pretty sure she was never taught either.

I was quite shy as a young person, didn’t want to talk much, didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to say anything wrong. This made it hard growing up. I kept everything inside and played mainly by myself. I had a huge closet that I would sit in and play with my dolls. I also spent a lot of time sitting outside on a blanket writing, coloring, and reading. I sang songs, was congenial, and had a sweet disposition so my mom didn’t worry about me. I had two brothers who I mostly avoided because they were rough, playing in the dirt, and it seemed to me they were always in trouble. (And when I was around I was busy trying to keep them out of trouble… a mother hen.)

I knew literally nothing about relationships or how to communicate my feelings. I had tons of emotional issues that have taken me years to overcome, some that still crop up from time to time.

When I had children I was determined that I would tell them everything I’d learned the hard way about communicating my feelings, desires, and ideas. I knew that this was a powerful tool to give to my children, that the world is a much easier place when you are armed with this knowledge. I wanted to share some ways in which I tried to teach my children the art of communication. Hopefully these ideas will help others that may have been raised as I was and are just starting out with your children.

1. Read books and watch movies with them that provoke thought.
When you read thought provoking literature with your children take the time to ask them how it made them feel, and what did they think about what happened in the story. What could this person have done differently? Do the same with movies you see. Get them talking about their thoughts and feelings. I have a girl and a boy, I noticed it was easier for my daughter in these exercises but I did not let my son off easily. I kept reading and asking so that I could get him to articulate his feelings.

2. Talk with them about your day and encourage them to talk about theirs.
This is good to do on the way home from school, from a party, or from their friend’s house. Don’t wait till later because you won’t get much of anything out of them. Children share best right away. They haven’t learned to hang on to thoughts and ponder on them for hours and days the way we adults can often do. Ask direct questions, not just, “How was your day”. Ask them if they did anything they really liked, hated, or did someone do something silly. Ask them about their teacher, their friends, or an art project. Recess, lunch, etc. If you don’t get them talking to you when they are young then you can’t expect them to communicate as teenagers, which is an extremely important time to be able to share.

3. Initiate games and activities that require sharing.
My children used to love to play Charades. We didn’t exactly go according to the formal rules of Charades. I would just tell them to act out a movie, cartoon, or book we all knew and see if we could guess what it was. They had great fun with this and it’s a wonderful way to get them to express themselves without words. We also did animal impersonations and tried to guess what animal. It was creative, funny, and a time to bond.

Playing board games like Guess Who, Monopoly, and Pictionary are not only fun but inspire communication. Even though it’s not primarily an exercise in communication it’s a time to stimulate conversation.

There’s another fun activity where you place random items in a sack and give them to your kids. They open them and make up a story using the items that are in the sack to tell you a story. It sometimes can tell you a great deal about what they are thinking. It’s a good way to open up channels of communication.

4. Look at photographs together.
Pull out the old photos of family and friends. The photographs can be recent or ancient, from when you were young or your parent’s era. Talk about the people and the situations. Ask them what they felt like during this vacation or event. Tell them what was going on with you or your parents at this time in their lives.

5. Talk about your surroundings with your children.
The people you see or nature you come across when you’re walking or sitting on the beach. Ask your children what they think about the colors and the smells, how do they make you feel. Share with them stories about when you smell a certain flower it makes you feel this way or that. The sound of the ocean and the wind on your face takes you back to a time. The gardener who takes care of this garden sure does a good job, would you like to do that kind of work?

6. When they are upset help them to work out how they feel.
As I previously stated, my son was harder to do this with than my daughter. But children are not born knowing what sad feels like, happy, or hurt. They need to be taught to understand what they are feeling. Try not to let them get away with, “I don’t know”. Pull it out of them. If need be get a smiley face chart, the emoticons we use as texts. Use it so they can point to how they feel and then try to get them to use their words to describe.

It’s important to share with your children about how you are feeling. Not necessarily every part, of course they don’t need to know every aspect of your life. Communicate your thoughts and feelings as much as you can. Sometimes it feels as if you have to drag things out of them, but just keep at it. Be persistent, loving, and don’t give up. It’s worth all the effort as they grow older and your relationship grows deeper. You are helping them become successful adults with solid relationships because you have given them the gift of understanding their feelings and being able to communicate them.

Author Byline:
Monta the mother of three children serves as an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many Organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance. She is a regular contributor of You can get in touch with her at montafleming6[At]gmail [dot]com.

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