Healthy relationships built on trust and respect stem from being able to share our thoughts and feelings. Whether it is a relationship with family or friends, or success at school or in the workplace, the ability to communicate effectively is an essential life skill for our children to master. Parents are central to helping children develop their communication skills, from a young age right through adolescence.
The development of communication skills is closely linked to social and emotional development. It makes sense then that as the brain matures, young people learn to think abstractly, to understand that others have different perspectives, and become better at regulating their behaviour and emotions – all of which makes them better communicators.
By showing your son that you value his thoughts and feelings, you will help him to better express them.
Here are some practical tips to build your son's communication skills from an early age that will set him on the right trajectory for his adolescent years.
Early years: the basics
- Time to talk: Have specific times to talk and listen to each other. Family meal times, a drive to or from sport practise, or walking the dog are great for this.
- Develop a ‘feelings vocabulary’: The ability to talk about an emotion is different to expressing that emotion. Be open to talking about your own feelings – anger, fear, joy or disappointment – as they occur.
- Use games and role play: For young children particularly, imagined scenarios can be helpful for modelling how to communicate.
- Be available and ready to listen: When your son is ready to talk, give him your full attention, make eye contact and be aware of your own body language. Model positive communication skills yourself.
- Don’t interrupt: Try not to jump in, finish sentences or cut your son off. All of these actions send the signal that what you have to say has more importance.
Adolescence: staying connected
As children move into their teens, friendships will become more central in their lives, but they still need family love, support and advice. While friendships – including relationships with the opposite sex – will become central in a teenager’s life, parents and friends take on different roles.
- Stay connected: Look to create planned and unplanned interactions with your son to build your relationship and stay connected. Don’t forget the simple things like a hug or a pat on the back.
- Practice active listening: Active listening means showing your son that he has your full attention. Show interest, listen without interrupting, judging or correcting.
- Don’t make assumptions: Don’t jump to conclusions, or think you know where a conversation is heading. Stay patient and your son will get there in his own time.
- Keep the emotions under control: There will be times when difficult conversations need to happen. A calm conversation will always be more productive, so reassure your son that you’re pleased he wants to talk, and then actively listen. Don’t forget to thank him for coming to you.
- Empathy: For a parent, the challenge can sometimes lie in remaining objective. Remember what it was like being a teenager? Be kind, show empathy and remember that whatever your son is experiencing and communicating with you is very real to him.
Learning to be an effective communicator is a skill that takes effort and practise. Opening the line of communication with your son from a young age, could make it easier for him to talk to you as he transitions into young adulthood.
Trinity Grammar School knows what boys need to flourish and inspires every boy to achieve. Trinity’s Year 7 Life Skills Programme focuses on equipping boys with essential life skills to grow into self-confident, resilient young men.
To learn more about the Trinity difference, and how you can support your son, download our Year 7 Pastoral Care and Life Skills information.