Family Communication

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Is anybody listening?
Almost all families have problems in communication now and then. That's just a normal part of family life. When conflicts arise, the ability to solve them openly and honestly in a way that is acceptable to other family members tells a great deal about your family's ability to communicate effectively.

How does your family communicate?
Do you feel comfortable with the way you and your family communicate with each other? If not, try getting together with other family members to express your concerns in a non-blaming and non-accusing manner. Usually, if problems have not been allowed to build for too long a time, your natural feelings of concern and regard for one another will make it possible to resolve your differences in a manner acceptable to all members of the family.

How can open communication be promoted?
Several things are common to effective family communication. One is the open expression of feelings, even anger, fear, or frustration. Understanding other family member's needs and accepting their right to those needs is basic to good communication. Courtesy and respect also enhance our ability to communicate effectively. Communication is good when you feel safe to say what you believe, when you feel the need to say it! One of the most effective ways to promote open communication in the family is through family meetings. A vital ingredient to healthy communication in a family gathering is to create an environment that promotes free expression of feelings and opinions in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.

An approach to family communication.
One of the best approaches to family meetings is to provide structure to insure equality among participants. It is first of all important to select a workable time to gather all family members together. Once gathered, a topic is introduced by any member of the family group. The meeting should be designed to discuss a variety of family topics, and with the understanding that individual behavior and problems are to be dealt with only at the request of the individual family member. The meeting must be non-blaming and solution oriented. A time frame of about 20 minutes, plus 10 to 15 minutes for review and closure is typically established. During the meeting, all suggestions are acceptable, and nothing is ruled out, no matter how unrealistic or bizarre. This helps to promote participation and fun; and assures everyone an opportunity to be heard and enjoy equal participation.

How it works...
Once all suggestions have been presented, a process of elimination is used to select the most realistic and workable solution based on the judgment of the majority of family members. The family then agrees to implement their solution and rewards itself for work well done, e.g.: make popcorn, pizza, go out for a treat.
Through family meetings, parents and children learn to listen to each other, and to value the opinions of others. The family can even include humor to make the process more enjoyable. The result can then be greater understanding, and a sense of hope that indeed, things can be better!