700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

How Open Conversations With Kids Promote Healthy Relationships

Sep 27, 2019
Mom and daughter sitting on a couch talking

As children turn into pre-teens, then teenagers, their bodies and the way they think changes. It’s important to connect with your child during these transitions to promote healthy body image, boundaries and relationships. Here’s how you can have meaningful connections and conversations with your child.  

Be a Role Model

When your child was young, you probably noticed how they copied your actions. This doesn’t change as they grow older. Children often look to their parents to learn how to think and react to situations and experiences. Showing your child that you value yourself teaches them to value themselves. Take time to practice self-care so you maintain confidence and healthy relationships your child can mirror.

Create a Space for Safe Conversations

It can be difficult to have tough conversations with your child. First, consider your own experiences. Think about how you may have felt or responded when you were your child’s age. Is the conversation you’re having something you discussed in your home when you were young? If so, think about what worked and what didn’t.

Next, find a way to connect the conversation to a special memory or experience you and your child share. This helps build more meaningful discussion. By relating the conversation to an emotional experience, your child is more likely to listen and respond appropriately to what is being said.

Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Without even realizing it, our bodies convey a lot about our thoughts and feelings to others. It is important when having conversations with your child to recognize what your body might be saying – and what their body language is saying to you. Sit facing your child at a table, on the couch or anywhere that creates a comfortable environment for you both.

When hearing something you may not want to hear, consider if your reaction may be visible on your face. Maintaining eye contact and a neutral expression will allow your child to feel comfortable and safe when talking to you. The way you speak also plays an important part in your conversation. How parents provide information can be just as important as what is being said. Keep a calm, even voice and your child will follow your lead.

Practice Power With, Not Power Over

Research shows that parents who use authoritarian parenting styles had children who were more likely to be exposed to inappropriate behavior and experience harassment. Instead of trying to control and overpower your child, try to maintain an open dialogue and set expectations together. Setting healthy boundaries up front will keep you connected and keep your child making healthy choices about their health and safety.

The Center for Family Safety and Healing
Find More Resources and Ways to Maintain Healthy Relationships

Featured Expert

Sarah Saxbe
Sarah Saxbe
Community Wellness

Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.

Caitlin Tully
Caitlin Tully
The Center for Family Safety and Healing

All Topics

Browse by Author

About this Blog

Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.