Mom sitting with two children
Raising Kids

5 Communication Techniques to Connect with Your Child


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My two-year-old has a new phrase: “Mommy, where are you?”

She often says this while I am standing right in front of her.

I think, sometimes, it’s innocent enough. She just needs me for something and is trying to get my attention. But it has me thinking about how often I am physically present, but not actually there. 

If you, like me, want to have more meaningful interactions with your kids, here are some simple communication strategies you can try out.

Make eye contact

Moms are great multitaskers. While your child is chattering away, you might be looking at the dishes, the baby, or your phone. Try turning away and looking at your kid—really looking—even if just for a moment, to invest in what he or she has to say. Rather than standing, you might squat, sit, or stoop to be closer to your child’s level. Child development specialist Peggy O. Harrelson shares, “Making eye contact with the child lets her know that she has your attention and is much less intimidating to the child.”

Practice active listening

Each time your child tells you a story or shows you a drawing, take a moment to engage with questions or comments. For example, you might say, “I notice you used your two favorite colors, red and green, for the dragon’s scales in this drawing,” or, “How tall was the slide you climbed at recess?” This kind of active listening enhances your understanding of your child and demonstrates his or her importance to you. This, in turn, is an investment in your relationship.

Be authentic

I feel strongly about being my authentic self with my kids. My hope is that this technique not only enhances their understanding of me as a person and connects us more, but that it also models healthy adult behavior for them as well. Granted, my authentic self sometimes comes out in the form of frustration or exhaustion, and that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Rather, I mean being honest when my kids ask me about what I’m doing (working or reading the news, for example), apologizing when I am in the wrong, or explaining my actions when I do something they don’t understand.

Engage and disengage purposefully

When you are watching or listening to your child, try to pour yourself into that moment.  Sometimes I’ll be asked, “Did you see that, Mom?” and realize that I did not watch when I said I was going to. I usually try to be honest and say, “I’m so sorry, I missed it, can you do it again?” but it would be better for our relationship if I had just watched in the first place.

If you are busy or now is not the best time to be engaging with your child, try stating what you need to do. Say, “I just need five minutes to finish up this email, and then I’ll be all yours.” And then really be all theirs. In fact, if you can, set aside a dedicated flew minutes—whether at bedtime, the dinner table, or the car ride home from school—to have a solid conversation with your children each day.

Commit to your words

Sometimes I will give absentminded responses to my kids without really thinking through what they are asking of me. Have you ever realized your kids were eating a snack you didn’t realize you’d agreed to, or have a child remind you that you said she could do something “later”? Kids hold you to your word. Try to think about what you are saying before you respond. And if you make a promise, no matter how big or small, make a note to yourself to follow through. Hold yourself accountable and teach your kids that they can truly trust your word.

Motherhood is overwhelming. I’m often either trying to get a bunch of things done, tending to one of my four kids when another needs me, or honestly and admittedly just simply checked out.

But when my daughter asks where I am, and I answer, “I’m right here,” I want to actually mean it. I want to feel that throughout the course of the day, I have truly connected with my children instead of just going through the motions.

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Photo credit: Benjamin Manley

One Comment

  • Sarah Garden

    Being present for my kids is something I am working on being better at. They grow up so fast and I don’t want to miss a thing. I have noticed that since having my 3rd and 4th child, it is so much easier to be distracted, especially when going shopping or when it gets really busy at our house. They know if I am not fully checked in and take full advantage 🙂 It’s definitely hard to bring the A-game at all times, especially in the mid afternoon.

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