Many parents worry about their children experimenting with drugs as they grow older.

man with toddler in fieldWhat a lot of parents don’t realise, is that one of the best ways to protect children against many risky behaviours is by developing a strong, positive relationship with them.

If we want to build a supportive and positive relationship, we need to be able to talk to our children – good communication is essential. Having open dialogue means we can then help our children if:

  • they are bullied
  • they are worried
  • friends are doing things that they’re uncertain about .

If our children do come to us with these, or other issues, we need to be able to deal calmly with the situation, otherwise they may feel they can’t talk to us or tell us things.

Why not try some of the techniques below for strengthening communication.

Active listening

  • Try to make some time just to listen, without doing another job
  • Show this by sitting down with your child and giving eye contact.
  • Speak only to encourage them to continue, not to give an opinion.
  • Try ‘mirroring’ what they are saying (e.g if child says ‘I felt a bit confused’, say ‘You felt confused?’)
  • Encourage them to come up with solutions, like ‘What do you think you could do about that?’ or ‘What could you say to your friend when she talks like that?’ 

Open questions

A closed question requires only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, so it doesn’t really help a conversation to develop.

Use open questions. They are more helpful in opening lines of communication because they encourage discussion. For example, ‘How did you feel about that?’ is likely to get more honest feedback than ‘Did that make you cross?’

Try practising this with another adult who you know well!  It’s a skill that can be improved and the more you practise the more natural it will become!

Praise – verbal and non-verbal

It’s easy to forget to praise your child. Here are some examples:

Verbal: Describe positively how they look or what they have done that you like: ‘Thanks for clearing up – that really helped’, or ‘That colour really suits you!’  Descriptive praise can be very powerful.

Non-verbal: smiles, positive touch (that the child likes), eye contact.

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