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Better Communication for a Healthier Family Unit by Andrea Lynn Waronker

Want to have effective communication with your family starting tonight? Start with dinner. At least one time a week, families should carve out time to sit and share at the dinner table. It is proven that the family that sits together at a meal communicates more effectively.

Start the conversation by asking your children some questions. A good question can be as simple as asking how their day went. Other examples might be: What did you learn in school? Who did you sit with at lunch? Did you enjoy music class today? What was covered in math? It is important to keep questions open-ended to eliminate monosybyllic answers. The goal is to have a discussion, not an inquisition.

family stay connected. Children are healthier and happier when they feel listened to by their parent(s). If having a sit down dinner together is too difficult, there are other ways to stay involved with your children. It could be as simple as leaving a note in your child’s lunch box just saying, “Hi” or, “I love you; have a good day.” In this age of instant messaging, send your child a text that lets them know you are thinking of them and hope that they have a good day. Something as simple as a smile sign () can make a child’s day. Whatever method you choose, you can be assured that these thoughtful little messages open up the lines of communication between you and your child.

When families do not communicate, problems are exacerbated. It really does no good to go out to dinner with your family if one person is on their cell phone, another is on their tablet and another is texting. It is not uncommon for family members to be in separate rooms listening to the radio, watching TV, or working on the computer. Any lapse in communication breaks down the family unit so it is important not to fall into the trap of electronics taking over family time.

Families also can shut down due to certain phrases used by adults that negatively impact their children such as asking, "you have been hanging out with who?" and "what kind of grade is that?" When phrases are heard as negative and insulting inquiries, even if they are intended as neutral questions about school or sports, it can lead to a change in dynamics within the family and often be why people do not feel heard.

If the family unit already is shut down, treatment for the family would be a wise choice. It can help a family communicate better and learn to truly love and appreciate one another. It can provide change for the positive. Some suggested modes of treatment are individual, family and couples therapy. There are also parenting workshops, groups and courses offered to help mend a damaged family. Those seeking support can begin their search with local social service agencies. These agencies have therapists trained in individual and family work.

Communication within families is vital. Growth emancipates the family unit. This is valuable so that the family can help society at large.

Andrea Lynn Waronker, a licensed master social worker, works with individuals, couples and families and has an office at 48 Burd Street in Nyack. She can be reached at, 914-572-6201 or at

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