Big Interview - May 2010 - Rob Parsons on The 60-Minute Family book

It is possible to rediscover communication with our loved ones, says popular speaker and author ROB PARSONS in his latest book The Sixty Minute Family

Times when communication is difficult occur in almost every family. It’s common, for example, for teenagers to go through a stage when you’re lucky if you get a grunt for a reply.

Normally with teenagers the problem passes, but sometimes in families lack of communication is much more serious.

None of us enters family life intending to be distant with each other, and in most families, lack of communication does not show itself quickly. But it’s clear there’s a problem when a teenage child who desperately needs to share her heart with a parent  is unable to because there is no relationship there.

And it’s clear when a couple tell you they are divorcing and say: “It’s not that we don’t love each other – it’s just that over the years we haven’t seemed to have time for each other.” One couple described this to me as  “a creeping separateness”.

I’ve made some bad mistakes in this area. I’ve spent much of my life communicating with others but I remember, in the early years of my family life, having little time for communication with those I loved most.

Thankfully, I learned some lessons just in time. I don’t think Dianne and I would have made it had I not realised that our love was dying for lack of communication.

I remember cancelling many commitments I had outside work and suddenly we had evenings in which we had time for each other. This wasn’t a quick fix – one particular winter we spent night after night just talking. 

The antidote to rediscovering communication with our partner and children is not usually found in expensive holidays – what some call “quality time” – but in quite a lot of “ordinary time” spent doing ordinary things together – especially talking.

I think now of a couple who led busy lives and who had somehow grown apart. They agreed that each Tuesday night they would spend some time together on their own.

Sometimes they went to the cinema, sometimes just for a walk, and occasionally, a meal out. It’s true they could afford babysitters, but they were not wealthy by any means.

Did that evening every week save their marriage? Who knows. But I do know this: it became important to them. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t expensive, but it did give to each of them the dignity of time.

Of course it’s not just communication with our partner that is vital, but communication with the whole family. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be just chatting as we do ordinary things together.

Research has shown that parental involvement has a huge effect on children’s performance at school. One of the most powerful elements of this is the time parents give to conversations about everyday events and activities.

When those conversations did not take place, it led not only to a lack of knowledge in the children but also to a lack of confidence.

Spending time talking, and especially taking time to listen, is rarely easy but it’s an investment in the future. If we listen to our children when they are five, six and seven as they’re helping us wash the car, there’s just a chance they’ll listen to us when they are 15, 16, and 17.

Tips for family communication

  • Take the chance to talk while you’re doing ordinary things such as going for walks or washing up.
  • Ask each other’s opinion – few things please children (or anyone else) more than being asked for their view. It doesn’t have to be about important issues. 
  • Make sure you really listen, even if you think you know what the other person is going to say.
  • Never interrupt or finish someone’s sentence for them.
  • Wherever possible, try to eat a ‘proper’ family meal together.
  • Plan regular one-to-one times with each member of your family.
  • Don’t answer the phone if it gives the impression it’s more important than the conversation you’re having.

Pick up a copy of the latest issue of Inspire (May) for a chance to win a copy of Rob Parson's book The Sixty-Minute Family. Find one at a church near you, or click the Order button to ensure you get a regular copy

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