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SAFE HARBOR #1: Communication Corner

Establish and maintain good communication with your child:

  • Hear what your child is saying.
  • Build up trust and acceptance.
  • Get to know your child’s feelings.
  • Ask for your child’s opinions.
  • Make time to talk.

Why is good communication important?

Children gain self-esteem or a sense of worth when their parents express love and concern for them. Self-esteem is important when it comes to making the right decisions about alcohol use.

Children who feel free to express themselves do better in dealing with peer pressure and temptations.

Children who feel respected by their parents are more likely to ask for their advice.

The more parents know about their children, the easier it is to guide them toward positive activities and healthy decisions.

Hear what your child is saying. Hear, understand, care about, and respect what your child is saying. To really listen, stop what you are doing and turn to your child. Notice your child’s body language and listen to his or her tone of voice. Let your child finish speaking before you speak. Then check with your child to make sure you understand what the child has said. Say in your own words what you think you heard the child say. Ask questions if needed. Keep in mind that children can often solve their own problems and deal with their own feelings when they are able to openly and freely talk about them.

Build up trust and acceptance. Children are more willing to open up and talk when they feel safe and secure. Parents can help children build security by saying things like, “I love you,” or “I like being with you.” Parents can also do this through their actions, such as by showing up at their children’s games and events, asking children to go on errands, or putting notes in their backpack.

Get to know your child’s feelings. Make sure your child knows that you respect what he or she has to say. Never make fun of your child. Make sure you laugh with and not at your child. When children are allowed to express their feelings without being judged, they are better able to think about and work through the choices they have to make.

Ask for your child’s opinions. Ask your child about what to have for dinner, where the family should go on vacation next summer, or how to solve a problem at work. Although it is best not to burden your child with major problems or decisions, asking for his or her opinions on day-to-day matters can give your child practice in solving problems. It will also help you to get to know your child better.

Make time to talk. Get into the habit of talking to your child each day, even if there is nothing important going on. Ask about your child’s hopes, worries, fears, likes, and dislikes. The more often the two of you talk, the easier it is going to be for your child to turn to you when facing an important problem or decision.

When your child comes to you with a problem …

You can help your child become better at solving problems and making decisions by simply asking questions. Ask question like:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • What do you know about that problem?
  • Who gave you the information?
  • How do you know that the information is accurate?
  • What other information do you need to solve the problem?
  • Who has that information?

Help your child think through each possible solution to the problem:

  • What are some of the good results of this decision?
  • What are some of the bad results?

Then let your child make the decision and take responsibility for the consequences.