Parents have a significant influence on their children’s interpersonal communication skills. The effects of parents’ nurturing — or lack thereof — begin in a child’s infancy and can affect the child’s interpersonal communication into adulthood. Additionally, the way that parents themselves communicate, both with their children and those around them, can serve as a model for a child’s behaviors and interpersonal interactions.
Modeling Communication Skills
The American Psychological Association explains that “Kids learn by imitating. Most often, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings.” Therefore, it is important for you to model healthy communication skills, particularly when your children are around. For example, if you are angry with your spouse, talking about the issue that is bothering you will model healthy interpersonal communication skills. Giving your spouse the cold shoulder or making passive-aggressive comments, on the other hand, would indicate to your children that this is an acceptable way to handle frustration and disappointment.
Keeping Lines of Communication Open
In addition to displaying effective interpersonal communications with others, communicating with your child can influence her ability to communicate with others. The Center for Effective Parenting recommends opening up lines of communication with your child at a young age. Simply asking the child how she is feeling and letting her know that you are available to talk can set the stage for effective interpersonal communication skills throughout her life. Even when your child is an infant, responding to her noises with words can prepare her to develop healthy communication skills, explains the child abuse prevention organization SCAN.
Handling the Tough Conversations with a Child
The way in which you handle disagreements with your older children can affect how they communicate with others. For example, putting your child down, calling him names or failing to listen to his point of view can negatively affect the way he expresses his opinions and emotions. Additionally, when you are trying to communicate something important to your child, keep his developmental level in mind. Use words that he will understand and if he is young, keep your communication brief. This can establish not only positive communications with your child but also show him that talking things out is an effective way of handling problems and managing difficult situations.
Abuse and Neglect
Children whose parents abuse or neglect them often display problems with interpersonal communication skills. The Child Welfare Information Gateway explains that children who are neglected or suffer physical abuse might develop impairments in the brain that affect their ability to develop age-appropriate language skills. Further, children who experience trauma or inadequate attachments to their parents or caregivers may struggle to express their own emotions or relate to others’ feelings.
- American Psychological Association: Communication Tips for Parents
- Center for Effective Parenting: Parent-Child Communication
- The Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund: How to Talk and Listen to Your Child
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development
- Good Therapy: Child Abuse and Neglect: Effects on Child Development, Brain Development, and Interpersonal Relationships
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