Posted on: 08.07.2015.

Author: Ana G

8 Steps to Better Family Communication

''family jumps again'' by Evil Erin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Your children are being rushed through their breakfasts while you and your spouse get yourselves ready for work. Not much is said other than words and nonverbal communication intended to hurry everybody along. This is a common theme in your lives. Perhaps your spouse and children seem to consistently have trouble understanding or remembering what others are saying, or do not show support for what is important to other members of the family. 

These points are important to note because improved family communication helps ensure that your home environment is more positive than negative. In fact, researchers have discovered that the quality of family interactions correlates with how satisfied they are with those relationships. Conversely, poor communication patterns oftentimes increase family conflict and diminish emotional bonds. 

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help improve the quantity and quality of the communication between the members of your family.

1. Schedule Family Time

''Family reading'' by Pierre Vignau is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It can be all too easy to create a life in which family members do not spend much – or any – quality time together, especially when you and your spouse may be working long hours at your jobs and the kids are busy with school and their extracurricular activities. However, it is incredibly important to schedule family time. In fact, you should raise the significance of doing so to the level that it is considered just as important as showing up to work or going to a doctor’s appointment. 

If necessary, remove some already planned activities from your lives to make room for ones that involve the entire family. Of course, gather feedback and come to a consensus when deciding which activities should be moved to make space for family time. 

Note that you may experience some initial resistance, especially from older children, and that you may not be able to create these experiences overnight. However, as long as you are diligent in setting time aside for this purpose, your family should start to look forward to these moments. It also helps to make sure that these activities are important to your children and spouse, but also that they're something you really enjoy as well. 

2. Establish Family Routines

Another way to create situations that all members of your family look forward to is to create some family routines. These can be as simple as reading a chapter in a book to a young one before bedtime or an activity that involves a little more planning such as setting aside a night every week or month to check out a movie or concert or engage in another fun activity. 

These routines also help create a sense of stability in the lives of children. Having something to look forward to periodically helps them relax and creates a fun sense of anticipation. These routines also create more opportunities for them to interact with other family members.

However, make sure to let this happen as organically as possible. Try out a few things and see what sticks. 

3. Eat Meals Together

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 1.0

One way you can increase family time together is to ensure that at least some of the meals you eat are spent as a family. It also helps to have this happen on a regular day or series of days such as Sunday evenings. Creating this ritual prompts children and other family members to start looking forward to them, but it eventually helps them to learn to expect these positive experiences. 

One of the benefits of regularly eating meals together is that people often communicate more openly and clearly in these situations than they may in other scenarios. 

4. Allow for One-on-One Time

Although group settings are great for a variety of reasons, it is also important to set aside some one-on-one time between you and other members of your family. Oftentimes, people are more comfortable talking about things important to them in this setting as opposed to a group one. 

Perhaps you can take a young one to a place that is important to them, such as an ice cream parlor or neighborhood park, to help them feel more comfortable and at ease. Once there, make sure to ask more open-ended questions that cannot be answered as curtly as children tend to do, especially when they get older. For example, ask about the most interesting thing they've learned that day as opposed to asking what they've learned in general or how their day was. Anything that gets them thinking and talking more thoroughly is a good thing. 

Also, ensure that you are available to speak with your children and other family members when they need someone to talk to. If you are busy when one wants to speak with you, make sure to set aside a time in the near future to devote to your loved one. 

5. Be an Active Listener

''Quality time'' by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Probably the most important thing you can do is to ensure that you are focused 100 percent on what your loved one is communicating. One way to help make sure that this is the case is to simply turn off or ignore all electronic devices. These include televisions, computers and cell phones, as miscommunication often occurs when the person being talked to is distracted by those things.

Also make sure that you are much more focused on listening than on talking or on constantly thinking of what to say when there is a break in the conversation. Many adhere to the 80/20 rule, which states that you should listen 80 percent of the time and speak the other 20 percent. Of course, it is not possible for both parties to listen 80 percent of the time in one-on-one conversation, but the gist behind the rule is important to keep in mind. 

Once the other person is finished talking, consider paraphrasing what was said and repeat it back to ensure that you understood it accurately. It also helps to have your child repeat back what you said to make sure that you were understood as you had intended. 

6. Attack the Problem, Not Each Other

If there are issues amongst family members, make sure that the focus is always on the problem itself, not on either or both of the people involved in the situation. In other words, show unconditional love for the person while communicating concern over what that individual did and clearly explaining why you were bothered by what had occurred. 

If necessary, take a few minutes before speaking to your child about what upset you. It is very important not to explode at your young one or otherwise react in a manner that tends to completely cut off the lines of communication. Allow your child to fully explain the reasoning behind what occurred, take the information in and then explain how you viewed the situation. 

7. Show Kindness and Appreciation

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One way to help foster positive emotions amongst family members is to regularly support each other. Doing so could include going to watch your son in the school play or listening to your daughter regale you with stories of her blossoming softball career. It also helps to encourage your children when they are experiencing some of the more challenging times in their young lives

Note that criticism is absolutely okay. Just make sure that love and care are behind those critiques and that your loved ones are forefront in your mind when you communicate those concerns.

8. Stay Connected Through Technology

Although it is important to cut off from technology whenever possible while communicating with loved ones, you can also use technology to keep in touch during times in your lives when you may not have as many in-person interactions as would be preferred. Using technology also helps keep family members in touch with each other when the time comes for the children to go to college or simply move away from home. 

In order to stay connected, many families create a family website. You could have different family members contribute to it in their own ways. Perhaps your son wants to post pictures of his rock collection or your daughter would like to share some poems or song lyrics that she has been writing. This is also a great place to show encouragement for one another and share goals, both short-term and long-term.

Maintain Good Family Relationships

''Family dinner picnic on #AmericasBestBeaches.'' by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Although improving the communication lines in your family does take some time and devotion, the outcome is easily worth anything that may have to be sacrificed to make that happen. Doing so not only helps strengthen the bonds between parents and their children, but it also helps parents get closer to one another as well as the children with each other.

Furthermore, a nice benefit that results from doing this is that it teaches your children how to communicate with those outside of the family such as teachers and friends. In fact, showing your loved ones the best ways to communicate will also help their future interactions with bosses, co-workers and their own children be as positive as possible.