A family lacking healthy communication is like a ship without a rudder. It will flounder even in calm waters and will become dangerously out of control in a storm. To avoid a 'person overboard' tragedy, it is vital to understand barriers to quality family communication. For healthy communication in the family, ensure that every member is heard, understood and valued.
Identifying Communication Problems
Family communication problems can manifest in a number of ways. Indicators can be as minor as one spouse misunderstanding the other's request for a ride home from work to issues as life-changing as a parent being unaware that his child is engaging in dangerous or unlawful behavior. In some cases, family members may actively choose to disengage. In others, the effectiveness of what was once a rock-solid system of family communication is chipped away so slowly that its deterioration may escape notice for quite some time.
Understanding the Long-Term Impact
Research published in the "Journal of Family Issues" in July of 2003 demonstrates that many couples cite communication problems as leading motives for divorce. In addition to the impact that divorce driven by communication problems has on the parents, the effect on children can be devastating. Family communication problems are often cited by psychologists who treat children and adolescents for emotional and behavioral problems. Family communication problems can also extend to the larger community and beyond when these same ineffective styles of communication are implemented in the workplace, at school, and in other social settings.
Implementing Strategies to Improve Communication
Modeling excellent communication techniques is a vital role for parents. When children see parents argue in a healthy way, discuss their days, and actively seek to support one another verbally and non-verbally, they learn how to behave in their own relationships. Researchers at Cornell University recommend that families eat a meal together at least three times weekly to promote healthy communication. Children whose families engage in this important communication-enhancing ritual are more likely to enjoy the additional benefits of improved academic success and greater psychological well-being.
Considering Professional Help
In some cases, family communication processes are so dysfunctional that one or more members overtly display distress. Family counseling is one of the most effective means of directly addressing this issue. Choose a family counselor who is professionally licensed by the appropriate governmental entity (e.g., a state or province). The "Therapist Locator" tool from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists is one good resource for finding a highly qualified counselor equipped to help resolve complex or seemingly intractable family communication issues.