Prevention Plus: Developmental assets — positive family communication

In an ongoing series in this column, we are highlighting one of the individual 40 Developmental Assets that have a powerful positive impact on young people’s growth. The second of these 40 is Positive Family Communication.

How do we communicate with our kids in the hyperconnected world we live in today? With mobile devices and social media dominating our 24/7 society, one would think we are communicating more than ever, and in some respects we are. But it’s the quality of the communication, not the quantity of the communication, that matters.

In-depth conversations with parents and other family members is a critical component for kids to feel comfortable, confident and have a high level of self-esteem. Positive family communication has a direct impact on their healthy development and encourages kids to seek their parents’ advice and counsel. But positive communication isn’t sending abbreviated text messages or quickly talking about their schedules. It means having frequent, in-depth conversations. It means being available to listen when your child needs you and even when they think they don’t. It means understanding your child’s perspective, not merely giving your opinion or advocating  your position. It means listening with an open mind and an open heart.

It’s not just in the Internet age that communication with kids has been challenging for parents. Many tried-and-true tactics are still valuable today: 1. have engaging conversations over dinner (or even for those few stolen moments over breakfast); 2. use all that time in the car driving them to their activities to have meaningful conversations; 3. schedule time to sit down and ask them about their interests, commitments and activities to demonstrate you care and to hear all about what they are up to when they aren’t with you. But make sure you put down your mobile device and focus solely on them in these critical conversations. And, lastly, use those mobile devices and social media to your advantage. Expand your modes of communication with your children to include their platforms and their languages. Not only may you reach them more quickly, but you may also demonstrate you appreciate their world. Just don’t let those brief interactions substitute for face-to-face, in-depth, regular chats.

The full list of developmental assets is available online: For more information about RPC, contact, or