Empathic communication helps parents relate to their children in a caring and effective manner.
- Begin by listening. Listening is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot effectively communicate unless we first listen to our children so that we can know their feelings, point of view, and what exactly it is that they are experiencing. In order to do this, we need to open our minds and hearts so that we can listen to all of what they say – to those things which are pleasant, as well as those things which are unpleasant. We then need to acknowledge our children’s feelings in order to open a dialogue, whether or not we agree with them. Their feelings are valid in their own right. Dismissing them only serves to shut down any attempt at communicating.
- By acknowledging a child’s perceptions, feelings, wishes, opinions, character, experiences, etc., we express respect for the child. Respect their ability to form their own solution.
- Avoid using criticism. Instead, use guidance by stating the problem and offering a possible solution. There is no need to say anything negative about the child or situation.
- Use I statements to describe what you see, feel, or expect in order not to place the other person in a defensive role rather than in a cooperative one. Own your feelings so that the other person can also have ownership of their feelings and actions.
- When showing appreciation, describe specific acts rather than evaluating. People appreciate recognition over evaluation.
- Make saying no less hurtful by granting the request in fantasy, even when it cannot be granted in reality. You can acknowledge the wish and feelings of the person rather than reacting to them.
- Children, as all people, need a choice and voice in matters that affect their lives. Granting this supports their autonomy and self-dependence.