Effective communication between parents and children isn't always easy. We are frequently in a constant "rush."  Before you know it, your children will be in college and focus outside of your home.  You must capitalize on the time you currently have with them now, not later.  Being "too busy" is never an excuse to teach them what only a parent can teach them.  The following tips should help parents communicate more effectively with their children.

Be available for your children

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk--for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car--and be available.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what's happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.  Spend valuable time in their "tree house."  A child's tree house is where they enjoy spending their time in a particular activity.  If you can relate to their activity, then they can more readily relate to you!
  • Learn about your children's interests--for example, favorite music, hobby, sports and other activities--and show interest in them.
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.

Let your kids know you're listening

  • When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it's difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before you respond.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly.

Respond in a way your children will hear

  • Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
  • Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it's okay to disagree.
  • Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, "I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think."
  • Focus on your child's feelings rather than your own during your conversation.


  • Ask your children what they may want or need from you in a conversation, such as advice, simply listening, help in dealing with feelings, or help solving a problem.
  • Kids learn by imitating. Most often, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems, and work through difficult feelings.
  • Talk to your children--don't lecture, criticize, threaten, or say hurtful things.
  • Kids learn from their own choices. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don't feel you have to step in.
  • Realize your children may test you by telling you a small part of what is bothering them. Listen carefully to what they say, encourage them to talk, and they may share the rest of the story.

Parenting is hard work

Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children. But parenting is hard work and maintaining a good connection with teens can be challenging, especially since parents are dealing with many other pressures. If you are having problems over an extended period of time, you might want to consider consulting with a mental health professional to find out how they can help.

Taking Control

Did you know that it is not uncommon for parents to allow their children to raise themselves?  Many times parents give their children enormous freedom, in what they do, who they are with, what they read, what they listen to, what they do, etc.  Do not allow your children to have access to what you cannot monitor, like a stereo, television, ipod, cell phone, or computer.  You need to know how they are using these instruments and what the results are.  This makes no sense.  You are a parent and have a responsibility to raise your children as you see fit, not as they see fit.  You are the primary authority figure in their lives.  If they do not understand authority as children, they will have a challenging time understanding it as an adult.  Schedule your children's lives as much as you can.  "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."  They certainly should have free time, but even that is monitored by the parent.  Simply allowing children to have "free reign" is not conducive to the proper development of a child.  Their scheduling should begin as soon as they come home from the hospital and continue until the day they leave your home.

What to do about children who ignore you and want NOTHING to do with you.  These are difficult situations, for sure, but they can be handled if you use the correct techniques.  The easy way to get them out of their "shell," is by involving them in family activities.  Generally, these children get along with someone in the family.  A brother, or sister, going on the activity can more readily provide the with incentive to join in the fun.  Try to become aware of activities your famly may enjoy and try to discover what their common interests are as you plan these events.  When you begin to spend family time together, just have fun.  After you continue to involve the famly in activities, then you may try to "draw" any child who has shut you out of their lives.

Please let me know any questions you might have related to this issue.  I'll be glad to help!

"No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home."

Benjamin Disraeli