Healthy family communication can be a significant buffer against various emotional and behavioral problems within families. Texas A & M's Child Development Specialist Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., notes that researchers find poor communication within families can lead to problems such as lack of intimacy, ineffective problem solving and child behavior issues. Families can learn effective communication skills, but must practice them to enhance family interactions.
Listening to family members with the intent of actually hearing what the others are saying greatly benefits communication within families. Quite often, listeners are tempted to pre-plan their responses to others' ideas, and fail to listen attentively to what the other is saying. This inactive listening may produce confusion and a lack of understanding among family members. Nodding your head and verbally expressing understanding shows family members that you are listening to -- and care about -- what they are saying.
Dishonesty in families can breach trust, which may cause family members to resist open communication with one another. It's important for parents to be honest, and to promptly address dishonesty within the family. Honesty is particularly beneficial between parents and adolescents as it helps teens become well-informed to make critical, life choices as they progress into adulthood. Nina Chen, Ph.D., Human Development Specialist for University of Missouri Extension, notes that honesty helps children build healthy relationships in life.
Openness regarding emotions establishes positive communication within the family. Parents help their children process their feelings by acknowledging them and providing children with positive coping techniques, according to researchers at the online family resource ParentFurther. Encouraging your children to discuss feelings strengthens trust and security. It is also cultivates an environment that encourages healthy communication among siblings.
Conflicts occur in all families, so it's important to have the necessary tools to resolve them when they arise. Create "win-win solutions" that balance the needs of all family members involved to resolve conflicts, University of Delaware Extension Specialists advise. This requires active listening by all family members, and works best when each family member offers suggestions, ensuring that all members' ideas get equal consideration.