Expressing love: Simple steps for improving communication with your children

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erika Best
  • Family Advocacy officer
When asked what the key to success is in building healthy relationships, many people will answer "communication." In fact, statistics from the Family Advocacy Program show that 75 percent of Air Force families who experienced child maltreatment in the 2009 Fiscal Year identified communication as their number one problem area. At Ramstein, 91 percent of families reported this as their greatest concern.

Shelia Ellison and Barbara Barrett, the authors of "365 Ways to Help Your Children Grow," state good communication within a family ensures "problems get solved, ideas get heard, feelings are expressed and intimacy grows." Here are some simple steps to help improve communication and express love within your home.

Actively Listen

Listening is the most crucial and often underestimated part of communication. Whether talking with your spouse or your toddler, it is important to give them your full attention. Avoid distraction by turning off the television. Make eye contact. Pay attention to their feelings and body language. Giving the child your full attention shows you value what they have to say.

When a subject is particularly sensitive, it is helpful to paraphrase what you heard and say it back before offering your own opinion. Doing so expresses understanding or helps you to clarify miscommunications. Paraphrasing also conveys empathy, which is the ability to "put yourself in another's shoes" to understand an issue from the child's unique perspective. Empathy is essential because it shows you acknowledge the child's feelings, even if you do not agree with their comments.

Make Time to Talk

The busy life of a military family can make it difficult to find quality time to build relationships. Being present is a sign to your children that you care for them and helps them to feel secure. A study at Michigan State University showed that 79 percent of parents in a communication study said they were communicating with their teens. However, only 19 percent of the children agreed. So, make the most of whatever small amounts of time you have. Shut off the radio in the car on the way to or from school and talk with your children. Take a short walk together after dinner. Let your child sit in the kitchen with you and talk about their day while you cook. These are some simple changes you can make to your daily routine that will increase the opportunities for you to talk as a family.

Express Love Daily

Expressing love is not only about saying the words "I love you," it is about the demonstration of love you give your family each and every day. Children need affection and encouragement but also need to see affection between their parents. Give hugs and kisses freely. Take time to praise your children for the things they accomplish each day. Do things for yourself, your spouse or your children that ease burdens and decrease stress. Lastly, play together. Making time for fun is an important part of keeping every family healthy and cohesive.

For more family fun ideas, look in the Kaiserslautern American for several upcoming events in honor of Month of the Military Child/Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Healthy communication is the method by which we express love and consideration to our children. It is not a goal to attain, but something we should all practice each and every day to build intimacy within our home.

For more tips and information on improving communication, contact the Family Advocacy Program at 06371-46-2370.