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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

The Importance of Communication in the Family

In  a  family,  all  members need  to  help  each  other  to

communicate well.  The lack of this skill causes a great deal  of

unnecessary  heartache not only between parents and children  but

between husbands and wives.

The late Erma Bombeck once said that the only thing she  and

her  son talked about was her objection to his long  hair  style.

One  day he came home with his hair cut and they found  they  had

nothing  more to say to each other.  She humorously  added:”Thank

God, he started to grow a beard.”  Do not let this happen in your


You will know there is a problem if the interchange  between

you and your children  is always negative and accusatory and  the

only topics discussed revolve around homework, school grades  and

clean bedrooms.  You and your spouse have a problem if your  only

topic  of conversation is disagreement over money.  If you  sense

there is a lack of communication in your family, the first  thing

to  do  is to make time to develop and to  practice  this  skill.

The best time is mealtime.

When  talking  to children, it is best not to ask  too  many

questions.   Children  sometimes resent them and view them  as  a

demand on the part of the adult for a response.  Statements  work

better  because  they are an invitation to respond.   Instead  of

saying,”How  are  you  feeling?”  say “I have  the  feeling  that

something  is  bothering  you.”   Or,  “You  seem  pleased  about                  

something.”   Statements  like  these give  children  the  choice

whether  to  respond  or   not  and  most  children  accept   the


In  a family restaurant one Sunday morning, a  young  father

sat down at the table next to me with his ten or eleven year  old

daughter.  The father seemed excited about spending this  private

time  with  her.  They ordered her favorite meal and  the  father

then  began  to  talk  about the trip they  would  be  taking  to

California.   He said she would see the ocean for the first  time

and  giant  redwood trees.  There was little  response  from  the

girl.   Although  she seemed interested, she apparently  did  not

know how to communicate this interest to her father.

After  several  minutes all conversation  stopped.   Luckily

their  breakfast arrived and they busied themselves  with  eating

it.  When they finished, there was more silence and they  finally

left.  The whole scenario took about half an  hour.

This  happens  in many families.  I think  fathers  have  an

easier time with sons because they can talk about sports.  Sports

talk fills up time and does not require much deep  communication.

I  believe  that  is why most men  get  involved  with  spectator

sports.   It  fills  up the void.  It should not  be  like  this.

Adults  should be able to communicate better with each other  and

to model this skill for their children.   

One  thing  parents can always do and all children  seem  to

enjoy  is to reminisce about the time they were  children.   This

father  could have talked about the time he went out to eat  with

his  father and what they talked about.  He could talk about  how

much he enjoyed just being with his father even though he did not

always know what to say.  Or, he could talk about something  that

happened at work he enjoyed.  The father could also have told his

daughter about a book he just read.  In this case, it could  have

been   a  story  about  something  that  happened  long  ago   in

California.  In this way, the father would have served as a  role

model  for his daughter.  With continued similar encounters,  she

eventually  would  learn  how to communicate with  him  and  with

encouragement from him begin to practice the skill herself.

Knowing  how to communicate is just as important as  knowing

how  to read and to write and its development cannot be  left  to

chance.   Make time now for you and your family to learn  and  to

practice  this skill.  It is the parent’s responsibility as  well

as the school’s.

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