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1. This document is FCS 2145, one of series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extensi on Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Scie nces, University of Florida. Or iginal publication date December 1999. Reviewed May 2003. Reviewed March 2007 by Heidi Radunovich, Assistant Professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Visi t the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu 2. Millie Ferrer, Ph.D., Associate Prof essor, Human Development, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, Florida Coop erative Extension Service, Institu te of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Un iversity of Florida, Gainesville, 32611 The Institute of Food and Agricu ltural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educ ational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, r eligion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, nationa l origin, political opinions, or affiliations U.S. Department of Agriculture, Coope rative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperati ng. FCS2145 Success and the Single Parent: Positive Parenting-The Communication Puzzle1 Millie Ferrer2 Overview To be successful as a parent, it is vital to have good communication with your children. Good communication is not always easy to have. It takes effort to communicate so that you are understood, because everyone looks at a situation differently. Families build stronger relationships when they learn to communicate be tter. Let's look at communication as a puzzle we can solve. We can all be winners when we think about the different parts of the communication puzzle, and put the pieces together to have them work for us. Important Pieces of the Communication Puzzle Listen carefully Give your children your full attention without disruptions. Sometimes it is hard to listen to them when you are very busy, but try your best to do so. The time you spend listening to them now wi ll be the basis of your relationship with them when they are older. Communicate eye to eye. When listening or speaking, eye contact helps with communication. Children ge t easily distracted-they focus on only one thing at a time. To make sure they are listening to what you have to say,
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 2 make eye contact with them. Example: Say, "Robert," and then wait until he stops throwing the ball and looks at y ou before you begin talking to him. Then say, "Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes." Consider feelings Children need to know that their feelings are real and okay. Children need to know feelings don't go away if we deny them--and, that it is okay to show them. When you were a child you might remember hearing, "Don't get so upset abou t it," or "You really don't feel that way," or "If you don't quit that crying, I'll really give you something to cry about." The key to lett ing your child know it's all right is to recognize the feeling inside and outside. You might say, "You really seem scared," or "It looks like you're angry." Communicate from the heart This means no jumping to conclusions about what is being said. This means stopping and thinking before judging or snapping back. Keep your attitude respectful, understa nding, open. When you listen from the heart, you put yourself in your children's shoes. Do not overdo giving advice. Often, our reaction to our child's emotional pain is giving solutions. Hold off! First, be a good listener. After listening, practice questions like "What do you think you need to do?" or "Is there any way I can help?" This teaches children that they can help in making decisions. And, when you do give advice, give it in the form of choices. For example, say, "Let's sit down and make a list of your options," instead of, "This is what you must do." Do not use unkind words. Nothing destroys communication fa ster than the use of unkind words. Avoid words that ridicule, shame, and discourage family members. Don't call names. By focusing on the positive traits of each family member, you help create a climate of mutual love, respect and good communication. (For further details, see Activity I) Communication with Your Former Partner We may know the importance of keeping up communications with our former partner, but sometimes it is easier said than done. Think about the different part s of the communication puzzle you've learned about: listening carefully communicating eye to eye considering feelings communicating from the heart. Practice using these skills when communicating with your former partner. And, here are more tips people find useful: Keep communication polite. Stay focused on the needs of your children, not your own needs. Notice how your parenting styles differ from your former partner's. Practice valuing his/her strengths as a parent. If you do this your former partner may follow your example. Do not pass messages to your ex-partner through your children. Don't argue--especially when your children are present. If you become angr y take a time-out. Do not act when you are angry or upset. If this happens whenever you meet about the children, perhaps a neutral adult ca n be called in to help. If this doesn't work, remove yourself from the situation. Seek out a pastor, divorce mediator, family therapist or counselor, if it is almost impossible to communicate. Get counseling on communicating better. Make it a point to speak well about each other. Nothing hurts children more than to hear bad comments about one or both of their parents. If you speak well of your former partner, it can become contagious.
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 3 Use "I" messages to express your feelings. For example, "I feel concerned when you arrive late to pick up Mary. I would like a call if you are going to be late." Tips for Better Communication There are many ways parents can improve their communication skills. Read these suggestions and add your own. Make a decision to try out five tips. Circle the ones you will try. Spend one-on-one time with each of your children. Turn off the TV and play a game or do a special activity with your children. Have a sit-down dinner with your children and practice keeping the conversation light and fun. Let children know they can come to talk to you about anything that is on their mind. No topics are off limits. Being available for our children when they need to talk leads to trusting relationship. Talk with your chil d, not at your child. In other words, don't lecture. (Do you like being lectured?) In your journal, write down positive ways to deal with your emotions. Tell your child one nice thing he* has done or said today. You can find something if you focus on finding the positive--and remember, it doesn't have to be big. Use more do's than don'ts in your communication. Keep a list of how many times a day you use don't. Break the don't habit; turn don'ts to do's. Example: instead of saying, "Don't yell," say, "Please speak softly." Instead of, "Don't hurt the dog," say, "Pet the dog gently" Communicate acceptance. When children know that they are accepted for just being themselves, they are more happy and spirited. Communicate in writing. It will be hard for your child to forget to take out the trash if he finds a big reminder taped to the TV or refrigerator. Each day, take time to say: "It's ok; I forgive you." "We all make mistakes." "I'm sorry." (Have the courage to admit you can make mistakes.) "I love you." (see Activity II)
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 4 Beginning the Journey The two exercises following this will help you in your journey to better communications. Be sure to take the time to write your answers down--and the month, date, and year you did the exercises. In future times of frustration and tension you can go back and review what you have written.
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 5 Exercise 1 Identify five things you really admire about each of your children. Focus on who they are rather than on specific things theyve done. Example: write listens better than I do rather than jumps higher than any kid in his class. Child Child 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 Child Child 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 Exercise 2 List five ways you show love for your children. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 6 Whats Next? If you feel your family needs to work more on their communication, there are other roads to follow: Find out if your children's school offers a program for children of separated or divorced parents. These programs are designed to help children talk about their feelings and learn how other kids in the same boat cope. Maybe trusted friends or other family members can also be available to listen. Your county Cooperative Extension Service can provide you with more information about better communication. There are many publications that are available to you. If the Cooperative Extension office doesn't have the information you need, someone there will help you find the right resources. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for educational help. Reference List Bluestein, Jane. 1993. Parents, Teens and Boundaries: How to Draw the Line. Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, FL. 202 pp. Carlson, Richard and Joseph Bailey. 1997. Slowing Down to the Speed of Life Harper. San Francisco, CA. 239 pp. Faber, Adele and Elaine Mazlish. 1980. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Avon Books. NY, NY. 242 pp. Ferrer, Millie. 1998. To ts In Action: 30-36 Months. Fla. Coop. Exten. Serv., IFAS, Univ. Fla., Gainesville. FCS2130. Hughes, Jr., Robert. 1988. Parenting on Your Own: How Divorce Affects Kids. N. Cent. Reg. Exten. Urbana, IL. Pub 282k. Olson, Myrna R and Judith A. Haynes. 1993. Successful Single Parents. Families in Society: J. Contemp. Human Serv. Pp. 259-67. Schenck, Betsy R. 1997. Winning Ways to Talk With Young Children. Fla. Coop. Exten. Serv., IFAS, Univ. Fla., Gainesville. FCS2021. Temke, Mary W. 1997a. Single Parenting: Common Questions Single Parents Ask. Univ. New Hamp. Coop. Exten. Durham, NH. Temke, Mary W. 1997b. Single Parenting: Sharing Parenting After Divorce. Univ. New Hamp. Coop. Exten. Durham, NH. Success and the Single Parent uses he, his, or him to represent children of both genders.
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 7 Activity I Role Play The best way to practice posit ive communication is to role play. Please do the following: 1. Get together with anot her person in the group. 2. One of you pretends to be the child. 3. One of you pretends to be the parent. 4. Role play one or two of the following scenarios a. The child has just gotten in a big fight with his best friend. The child is very angry ans says that he hates his friend and is never speaking to him again. b. Your child is to be in bed by 8:00. It is past 8:00 and his is seeking attention from you by asking for a glass of water, another story, etc 5. Switch roles. 6. Be sure to use positive communication techniques Remember! Use the skills di scussed in the lesson: Dont give too much advice. Hint: Ask the ch ild, What do you think y ou need to do? Is there any way I can help? Look at different options t ogether instead of just telling the child what to do. Make sure you are not distract ed when talking with your child. Consider the childs feelings. Do not deny what he feels, but in stead, affirm his feelings with statements such as, You must be really angry. Dont yell. Speak to your child in a calm tone when you disagree. Use I messages to let the child know how you feel.
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 8 Activity II This is your first week of practice. Practicing Communication Tips In the spaces provided, list at least three communication tips you will try out this week. Each time you use of the techniques, put a check mark in the circle and give yourself a pat on the back! This is your first week of practice. And practice makes perfect. 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 9 Activity II This is your second week of practice. Practicing Communication Tips In the spaces provided, list at least three communication tips you will try out this week. Each time you use of the techniques, put a check mark in the circle and give yourself a pat on the back! This is your second week of practice. And practice makes perfect. 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Success and the Single Parent: Positive Pa rentingThe Communication Puzzle Page 10 Activity II This is your third week of practice. Practicing Communication Tips In the spaces provided, list at least three communication tips you will try out this week. Each time you use of the techniques, put a check mark in the circle and give yourself a pat on the back! This is your third week of practice. And practice makes perfect. 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3