Family dynamics are the patterns and practices families use to interact with other. Although communication is just one of many elements of family dynamics, it affects every aspect of family life. Families need strong, healthy communication to function well as a unit and meet the individual needs of all family members. Communication happens whether families work at it or allow it to happen haphazardly. Strengthen your family’s communication and its positive effect on family dynamics with practices and activities that improve communication skills and encourage honest, healthy interaction.
Family Dynamics and Communication
Although all families share some common patterns in interactions, each family develops a unique system of family dynamics influenced by the family’s history, experiences and personalities. Communication is just one element of family dynamics, while other elements include roles, hierarchies and alignments of family members, according to Jesuit Social Services. Communication occurs when family members continuously give and receive information. Healthy, effective communication strengthens the family unit and each of its members. Poor communication can lead to serious problems and disconnects among family members.
Create practices and resources that encourage and support continuous communication among family members. Your family might use a bulletin board or the refrigerator to post notes and reminders. A family eating breakfast together can use that time to discuss plans for the day and share updates. Family meetings are helpful for sharing information, making plans, resolving conflict and decision-making. Parents can start the family meeting tradition and bring in the children when they are old enough to understand. Even very young children can benefit from watching the respectful give-and-take of older family members communicating with each other.
Fun and Frolic
Communication happens naturally when families join together in fun activities. Parents can model and direct communication during planning. Children can practice collaboration, self-expression and listening skills. Encourage post-activity discussions to process the experience and share feelings. The maze is a fun activity that requires talking and listening to accomplish a goal. Arrange furniture, boxes and other items to create a maze. Blindfold a family member and have another member provide verbal directions to help him work through the maze. Family rituals, such as movie night or a weekly outdoor activity, provide consistent interaction and more opportunities for communication.
Unexpected events, such as storms, can open the communication floodgates and provide bonding moments. Weather extremes that knock out the power can leave a family with little more to do than communicate and get to know each other better. Gather together on blankets with flashlights or in candlelight -- follow safety protocol -- and tell jokes. After a snow storm, build snowmen. Stuck in the house? Fill a bowl with prompts written on paper, such as "What I want to be when I grow up," "My happiest moment," "My scariest moment," "Pet peeves," "Things I love." Then take turns randomly drawing from the bowl and answering the prompt. This is a fun way to get to know each other better.
When families encounter situations that require problem-solving, communication is critical for limiting the negative effect on the family and for ensuring that the family can learn from the problem. Hold a special meeting or a family court session to review the problem, examine the effects on the family and discuss consequences. Avoid judgment, value each person’s input and use the discussions to reinforce the importance of communication, trust and responsibility to family members. For serious family conflict, place a spoon in the middle of the table. The person who picks up and holds the spoon has the floor and no one talks until he is finished. Allow everyone to use the spoon.
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