Building Effective Family Communication

It’s easy to get trapped in the negative communication patterns you may have learned from your own parents who learned them from their parents and so on, such as using hurtful language or not listening to you when you tried to communicate something important. Remember that you are not your parents and you can choose to break the cycle of negative communication patterns by making choices that positively affect your child and spouse. You can choose positive communication choices, including using supportive and respectful language with your child, spouse, and family members, as well as listening to them and trying to understand their point of view.

Learning to problem solve without fighting

All couples have disagreements over matters big and small. But the way you choose to approach disagreements can have an impact on your child. Children are sensitive to disagreements in the home. They notice when the tone of your voice changes, how loud it gets, and the words being used. 

When an issue pops up, try problem solving the issue together so you can move forward and find solutions without getting bogged down in blame and negative communication patterns. 

First decide on a time and place to talk. It’s hard to problem solve when you are in a hurry or distracted. Then, try the following steps:

Step 1: Name the problem without using blame.

Consider these two approaches to a common problem: “You never spend time with me anymore,” versus “I miss spending time with you.” The first approach puts blame on the other person, while the second approach invites a conversation about how the couple can carve out more time for each other. Framing the problem in a neutral way ensures that your message will be heard.

Step 2: Say what you want, just for yourself.

Be specific about what the problem is and avoid vague language. For example: “What I want is for us to spend more time together like before we had Hannah.”

Step 3: Ask for the other person’s point of view.

Find out what your partner wants. Listen and acknowledge their feelings. 

Step 4: Brainstorm solutions.

Without judgment, come up with some solutions to the problem. Be creative with your ideas. For example, “Maybe we could ask my sister to watch Hannah every other Saturday night for us?”

Step 5: Decide on a solution that works for both of you.
Step 6: Check in with each other.

How is the solution is working for both of you? Do you need to make changes?

Solving problems is a process

When you communicate effectively and work together to solve problems, you are modeling positive communication skills and creating a healthy home environment for your child.

This article appeared in the February 2021 edition of Oregon Family Magazine.


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