Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Effective Communication to Help Your Child's Development and Well-being

   Let’s be honest, having a relationship isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Learning to mesh all of your strengths, weaknesses, schedules, finances, life goals, parenting styles, communication pattern, and favorite Mexican restaurants can be a huge transition. Relationships are challenging enough between partners, but when you add children, the difficulties in communication become more complex.

   Research has shown that unresolved conflict between parents can lead to “lower psychological and marital well-being” in your child’s development (Amato, Louis, & Booth, 1995). Research has also shown that marital stress can promote 'permissive parenting' which is associated with disruptive behavior in children (Ahmadi & Saadat, 2015). But don’t lose hope! There are positive and healthy ways to resolve conflict that will not only benefit you and your significant other, but will also help your child’s healthy development.

   Designed by Dr. Howard Markman, author of "The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program" or PREP, the Speaker-Listener Technique is like a blueprint for communication, especially conflict resolution. It allows participants to problem solve without talking over each other. It is like a tennis match: first the "ball" is in your court, and then it is in theirs. There are certain rules that have to be followed, however; after all, if there weren’t any rules in tennis, it wouldn’t be very fun for long!

General Rules: 
    •The speaker has the floor. Use an object, such as a pen, to show who the speaker is. 
    •Share the floor. Take turns letting each person be the speaker.
    •Don't try to fix it. Focus on having a good discussion, not finding a solution. The solution often comes when you are on the same page.

Rules for the Speaker:
    •Speak for yourself. Don't read your partner's mind. Express your feelings and thoughts, using "I" statements to express your point of view (e.g., I feel…, I think…). Take ownership of your thoughts and feelings, don’t blame.
    •Be brief. Don't go on and on each time. You will have plenty of time to talk about everything that is on your mind as you both take turns.
    •Stop and let the listener paraphrase. After you've spoken for a short while, let your partner paraphrase what you just said. Help him or her understand your point of view. If the paraphrase is not quite accurate, politely restate what you meant. 

Rules for the Listener: 
    •Paraphrase. Repeat back what you heard in your own words to let your partner know you understand what they are saying. Wait until your turn as speaker to ask more questions. 
    •Focus on the speaker's message. Don't rebut. Remember: your job is to listen and understand what your partner is saying. Wait until you are speaker to offer your own opinion.

   This simple approach to connecting with others will not only help your romantic relationship, but will teach your children positive ways to problem solve with you and their peers.

   Remember, practice makes perfect. It will take some time before this process becomes a natural, permanent part of your communication, so don’t feel like you have to get it all at once. Trying your best, even when it's not perfect, sets a good example for your kids. When your children see you and your partner solve problems in a healthy way, and when you solve problems with them, they are much more likely to feel secure in your home as they can see that problems can be overcome by effectively communicating.

For do's and don'ts of healthy co-parenting for divorced and separated couples, check out this article by PsychologyToday.
You can also check out this past post on helping children deal with divorce.
Utah residents can look for local Healthy Relationship classes at this website.
For more on PREP, you can check out this book by Dr. Markman and his colleagues.

1 comment:

  1. This Nate guy really knows what he is talking about. Good stuff!