Touro Infirmary

FALL 2013

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F A M I L Y S T Y L E Happy TALK How well does your family communicate? By Steph Thompson I SHUTTERSTOCK f you want to communicate better with your children, a good way to start is by communicating better with your spouse, say the experts. How parents and other adults in the household work through difficulties and misunderstandings serves as a model for kids, so don't ignore signs of stress or upset, says Sheila Ward, an advanced practice registered nurse with Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky. "I always ask patients [who are] upset about not being understood by a spouse, 'When did you last talk about this?'" she says. "It's important to set up a specific time that's good to talk because if an issue gets raised in anger, people often feel cornered and on the defensive." QUALITY TIME To foster open communication among the whole family, it's crucial to spend quality time focused on doing something together, "without the technology turbine sucking attention away," says Dr. Teresa L. Clawson, a neonatologist affiliated with Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Va. "The trend toward technology is a dangerous one because tone of voice, facial expressions and body language are critical to understanding the meaning of words." Sharing stories at the dinner table, calling on the way home from work to chat, or waking up the kids to see the stars can all be moments that help families feel connected and open to communicating. And if that connection exists, parents are also more likely to pick up on signs of potential problems with children, such as depression, drug use, eating disorders or low self-esteem, says Dr. Clawson. RE-ESTABLISHING THE CONVERSATION Sometimes, though, kids of any age can clam up. How do you get communication going again? First things first: Remember to listen. "Communication is a two-way street, and you as the powerful adult can shut [kids] down if you're not careful," says Dr. Clawson. With young children, reading together will often get them to start "opening up about things going on in their minds," says Dr. Lindsay Oliveira, an internist and pediatrician at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial, Fremont, Mich. For teenagers, she recommends asking about what's going on with their friends. "Sometimes talking about the ways in which their friends are involved with drinking, drugs or sex can open doors to what they themselves are involved with and give you a chance to talk about the seriousness of these things," explains Dr. Oliveira. It's important, she adds, to offer solid reasons for your decisions on what is and is not acceptable behavior. "It shows you respect your kids when you give them reasons for your choices," she says. • w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m FA L L 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN 9

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