We want to hear about your experiences with Parentline... Help us improve our service!

Go to survey

Main Menu

Communication Tips For Parents

Communication is the key to a healthy relationship with your child. Here are some tips to help you and your child communicate well together.

Dad and daughter smiling at each other

What is great communication?

Great communication allows you and your child to build trust, self-esteem and better connect within your relationship.

It can help to keep in mind:

  • How you communicate with your child will change as they grow up and gain more independence
  • Conveying a message is only one part of great communication
  • Great communication is a two-way process - listening is as important as talking
  • Successful communication with your child depends on what, when, where, how and why you say things. What you don’t say is also important
  • Your child’s brain is still developing, including learning how to handle their emotions and communicate well
  • Great communication helps kids develop the skills they need for developing strong, respectful relationships and feeling able to ask for support when they need it

Communication styles

The way we communicate differs based on gender, cultural background, age and the situation.

It’s likely you and your child have different communication expectations because of the generation gap.

In general there are three communication styles. Assertive communication is preferable to passive or aggressive communication.  



Assertive communication – not blaming others and taking turns to listen

Passive communication – giving the silent treatment and avoiding conflict

Aggressive communication – being forceful, not listening, harsh and blaming

Common communication mistakes

Communication mistakes can lead to feelings of anger, frustration and possibly conflict between you and your child. Knowing the pitfalls can help you communicate more effectively. You may notice your child making these mistakes too. Calmly discussing this can help them improve their communication.

  • Alienating messages – making ‘you’ statements that are blaming – eg. “You’ve upset me”
  • Interrogating – asking lots of closed questions with a direct tone can make your child feel unable to open up    
  • Avoiding – not communicating thoughts, feelings or wishes because of a fear of upsetting your child or embarrassment
  • Labelling – when you judge or give your child a label – ‘because you are young you will think a certain way’
  • Mind reading – when you assume and expect your child to know your thoughts and feelings without discussing them
  • Interruptions and distractions – not giving your child your full attention can make it seem like you are not interested in what they have to say

How you can support great communication with your child

It’s easy to expect more of your child than they can give. They are on an emotional (and hormonal) rollercoaster during certain stages of growing up.

Here are some ideas to help you be a great communication role model:

  • Show empathy by trying to understand their perspective
  • Show genuine interest and give them your undivided attention
  • Encourage face to face instead of electronic or online communication 
  • If you need to calm down, pause and allow yourself time to think before talking more
  • Notice your own communication style and make changes if it is either aggressive or passive
  • Don’t avoid conflict - calmly take the lead in facing it
  • Listen and summarise back to your child what you heard them say
  • Plan how, where and when to talk with your child and also know what not to say 
  • Ask questions and share concerns rather than making assumptions and criticising
  • Teach your child about the three communication styles (assertive, passive and aggressive) 

When communication breaks down

You might feel powerless when you and your child can’t talk effectively about difficult topics. Here are some things you can try to get your communication back on track:

Tell your child you care and will do all you can to work this out

Try sticking to safe topics, while you build up trust again and work out what to do

Practice great communication while talking about the little things - like what interests them

Sometimes it can help to have a calm third person involved to support communication between you and your child 

Notice when your child is more open to talking – it could be while you’re playing a game together or doing chores

If you have concerns about your child’s development of communication skills for their age, check in with your doctor 

Seek extra support to build up effective communication skills by talking with Parentline and encouraging your child to speak with Kids Helpline

Great communication is so important - though it isn’t always easy!

If communication is becoming an issue, there is support available.

This content was last reviewed 18/05/2018

Was this information useful?

Help us by rating this page:

Thanks for your feedback!

Parentline is here for you.

Sometimes you just need to talk to someone. Sometimes you need guidance.