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Parental Roles in Family Communication

  1. Rationale

According to Schrodt, Ledbetter & Ohrt (2007), effective communication has emerged to be a relevant element of not only strong, but healthy families as well. Previous scholars have identified communication as one of the most essential building blocks contributing to a strong marital, as well as parent-child relationships among the siblings. Talking about family communication, scholars refer to the mechanism through which verbal and non-verbal information is relayed or rather exchanged between the different members of the family. Communication entails an individual’s capability towards paying attention towards the thoughts and feelings arising from his/her colleagues, and in this case, within the family context. This implies that the most relevant part of communication is not only talking, but paying attention to whatever others have in mind, and would like to share.

According to Sigafoos, Arthur-Kelly & Butterfield (2006), within the family context, communication is of great importance since it provides room for members to freely express their needs and what they want among other concerns to each other. Other scholars in the field of sociology have argued that open and honest communication in the home creates a conducive atmosphere for the members of a family to feel free and welcomed in expressing their differences, thus resulting to love and admiration between siblings and parents. Indeed, it is through communication that members of the family are able to come together, embrace each other in more mature and loving ways, thereby getting in a good position to solve possible unavoidable problems that may arise at this level.

Effective communication is a common characteristic of strong and healthy families, and just in the same way, poor communication is a common element dominating in unhealthier family relationships. Reports by marriage and family therapists have indicated that lack of effective communication is commonly complained among homes with difficulties. In other words, the majority of families seeking for psychological support due their daily “difficulties” with one another have one thing in common; poor communication. In most cases, poor communication has emerged as an indirect and unclear problem, posing family members to lots of difficulties such as excessive sibling and parental conflicts. Other possible problems arising from the same include ineffective ways of solving matters, total absence of intimacy as well as weak emotional bonding.

Matsunaga (2009) discovered that indeed there exist a strong link between parental roles and communication patterns, and the extent by which family relationships satisfy the needs of both siblings and parents. In fact, one of the contemporary sociologists discovered that the majority of couples who rated their communication to be positive were highly satisfied with their relationship for close to six years later. This was, perhaps, a proof to the idea that poor communication is majorly associated with such cases like increased risk of divorce, separation between the couples and a lot of behavioral problems in children.

Generally, with an effective communication, a parent can realize the dream of the perfect family, thanks to the better relationships within this institution that will always lead to the same. In order to make it a reality, there must be a foundation of trust among the family members, alongside other willingness towards listening and understanding one another. Effective communication among the family level keeps the siblings and parents open to share their thoughts and feelings, thereby fostering a home surrounding where everyone feels comfortable and more secure with regard to their relationships. It is for that reason that this research is directed by the desire to understand the different roles played by parents in family communication, yielding the research question for this literature review project as:

How can parents enhance or rather ensure a more effective communication at the family level?

 

Family

Talking about the family, sociologists refer to one’s blood and the individuals who accept him for who he/she is, those who are ready to engage themselves in anything for the person to smile, and loves him/her “unconditionally.” Others have argued that the family is the only place where life begins with no room for the love to end; endless love. One may have lost friends in his/her life, though no one in the world can care to the extent as parents do. Actually, the majority has failed to appreciate the relevance of family, though there are numerous reasons as to why family is important to any community member.

Sociologists have defined family as the most basic institution, where individuals are nurtured and uncultured to the society. One’s home and family encompass the individual’s nest, that is, the center of his/her life, and the hub providing an extension of his/her daily experiences. Cutting across the board; both for children, youth/adults, the home and family provides the opportunity or rather the ground and reason as to why individuals should always have comfort in the world. It is a home and family that make the crucial decision on how one should make his/her life decisions; by shaping an individual’s attitudes, awareness and self-esteem. Therefore, a healthy home life, which is derived through positive communication, is one of the most vital ingredients whenever realization and achievement of a meaningful life becomes a matter of concern.

A lot of questions have been asked with regard to the process through which communication helps in building a healthy home. In response to this, scholars have highlighted three key elements that must be brought on board whenever community members want to establish or rather create a peaceful home life. These include adopting positive communication in order to create a good relationship between the members of the family. The other two include creating a positive atmosphere within the home environment and running home; all demanding positive and effective communication at the family level as an ingredient.

 

Communication provides a framework through which members of the family are able to share principles and values, thereby growing together as a unit. Patterson (2002) has argued that the home provides the foundation through which members; parents and siblings are able to share the common sense of purpose, though at the same time, encouraging every member to stay focused on their goals in life. When parents enculturate their siblings through a positive communication framework, the resultant effect is a family where the members stay until late hours, opening their minds to one another and sharing their views on various issues. For instance, effective communication has seen children crowding around their grandparents, with the intention of getting stories and other moral lessons in life. Indeed, it is a healthy communication that makes homes to be alive, giving energy and hope, alongside other aspects of love. Therefore, it would be wrong for one to argue that peace in home rises from the atmospheric tranquility, and instead, it is the life that is created through a positive communication among the members.

Types and Levels of Family Communication

 

Just like in the outside world, members of the family communicate with one another through different forms and on various levels. At times, it becomes difficult for members of the family to know what exactly their colleagues are feeling or thinking, and therefore, the reason to rely on communication as the best ways for conveying messages from each other. Other than using language for the purposes of speaking and talking to one another, there is a lot that can be driven from communication. At home, there are various levels and forms through communication exists, among them include:

Verbal Communication: This is when the members of the family embark on using symbols in various forms like spoken words for the purposes of transmitting messages from one to another. In most cases, verbal communication between parents or siblings themselves emerges to be complicated, considering the arbitrary nature of language, dynamic meaning of language, ambiguity and abstract. Thus, at the family level, miscommunication takes place due to the dynamic nature of meanings attached to words, absence of a clear-cut or generalization of words with respect to the meanings they convey. For example, at the family level, the word “love” is a common term. It is a very precise term, and the definition of the term love when used between parents may differ substantially when used between siblings.

Nonverbal Communication: In the family context, sociologists define nonverbal communication as the adoption of symbols instead of words in transmitting messages. This may range from gestures, body language, environmental aspects impacting on meaning and the way through which siblings and parents may utter words. Similarly, nonverbal symbols express a lot of ambiguity. For example, a polite gesture among the siblings may be treated as a sign of rudeness by the parents. Particular forms of non-verbal communication tend to convey different meaning when used across various cultures. For example, among the American families, direct eye contact is considered to be appropriate, the reverse is true when it comes to Asian families.

Intrapersonal Communication: At the family level, this is defined as the self-talk or thinking, and typically referring to the process through which a member of the family communicates to himself/herself. Intrapersonal communication greatly impacts in an individual’s self-esteem, hence the reason as to why the majority is encouraged to view themselves positively.

Interpersonal Communication: At the family level, interpersonal communication is the process through which family members freely interact with one another by sharing ideas and what they have in mind. For instance, when it comes to planning family activities and trips, members use interpersonal communication. For this reason, the majorities of the family members are encouraged to adopt interpersonal communication with one another, though with a positive approach and framework.

  1. How can Parents Foster Family Communication

Heisler (2005) has argued that in order to have any positive relationship, the involved members must embrace good communication. However, family communication is of paramount importance, since it is at the hoe level where intimacy grow among the members; siblings and parents. It is recommended that members of the family get together on a regular basis, share their problems, and let every member know the level at which they are loved and appreciated. Scholars have argued that family communication style defines the process through which its family members interact at the society level, workplace, learning institutions as well as future relationships. For instance, if a parent plans to improve his/her family intimacy, it is recommended to have the siblings on the road to not only healthy, but productive relationships as well.

In the current century, families are faced with economic pressures. Other than being the custodians and managers of the daily tasks that are vital for their households to continue running, families have been faced with a host of responsibilities that come alongside social commitments. Basing on the highly-witnessed paced lives, communication has proved to be of greater relevance than ever before as far as ensuring a strong relationship is concerned. Furthermore, communication is more than coordinating the car pool and gently reminding the siblings on matters to do with laundry and hygiene. It is about being open and sharing the true feelings and thoughts, desires and experiences, with some individuals whom have proven to be dearest than anyone else.

According to Vaughan & Tinker (2009) the key to coming up with a solid family is engaging in conversation that is not only strong, but meaningful as well. However, no one has ever found it easy, though maintaining a little practice on a daily basis helps in bonding the family members. Parents should always enhance their home-harmony, by learning the different ways for starting off a conversation whenever they feel upset or angry. Both a harmonious and loving relationship at the family level can only be realized through a good communication between parents themselves, siblings; all the family members. An enhanced family communication cultivates love between parents and siblings, which further enriches trust, respects, and further assisting the family when it comes to facing ups and downs of life.

In support of a positive family communication, scholars have argued for the need for adopting the following tips:

  1. Make time for Talking

Galvin, Braithwaite & Bylund (2015) have argued that conversation just not come automatically, and instead it calls for family members to invest some time and effort. If a parent is always on his/her toes getting kids out of what he/she dislikes or asking them about the diet, they would prefer for that day, then the parent is said to be investing heavily in a less healthy family. A better way of creating talk time with the family members is for the parent to sacrifice one of the activities that had been scheduled for kids. For example, a parent can opt to do away with a baseball practice, replacing it with nothing and calling them for a family meeting.

In the family meeting, it is important to for the patents to engage the kids about their plans with regard to get the family together after a given period of time; regular basis. However, there is a possibility of facing some groans and resistance, particularly for the older kids at first, though there should be consistency on the initial plans for meeting and regular talks. It is this consistency for daily meetings that will see the kids realizing the need for the regular meetings and start looking forward for such moments as their parents do. Despite the possibility of success with this approach, the success cannot be realized overnight, and hence the need for parents to be diligent in engaging the kids in the same on a regular basis.

  1. Family Dates

According to Davalos, Ernest and Robert(2005), it is high time for date parents to include children in their date bights, rather than sticking to the “old school” version; only for the spouses. Children should accompany parents to their date nights, since such events create wonderful times and opportunities for the family members to bond. Parents are therefore advised to schedule the dates in their calendars, considering it to be as important as attending to a doctor’s appointment, or any other thing that ought not to be cancelled.

Curtis, et al (2010) have argued that it is important for parents to try exploring other extraordinary options when finding out the different ways of spending their dates at night. For families with younger kids, parents should accompany them on mystery rides, and it is at this time when they need to surprise their kids with end destinations among other gifts a few towns away, perhaps at an ice cream parlor. While driving, parents should use this great opportunity to engage one another as a family, particularly when the music has been turned off, and making the kids to forget their toys among other game devices back at home.

Corlett & Twycross (2006) have argued that in some cases, it would be more difficult to convince tweens and teens to engage in these kinds of talk, but parents are advised not to give up. For instance, the one of the parents should find from them on how they may want to spend an hour with the members of the family. In most cases, the boy child and the girl child would prefer to engage in completely different activities. This should provide an opportunity to convince them to consider doing the same thing, but in a different way with the family members present, and sharing ideas at the same time. This will end up encouraging family communication through sharing of information between parents and siblings during this free hour.

  1. Gather Round the Table

Over the centuries, the concept of families coming together during meal time has been in existence. However, this particular notion has been made so difficult by the fact that making it happen or come true is quite challenging. Whenever family members dine together, the protective steel wall developed during the day is easily eroded, since the dearest ones become part of the surroundings. It is at this time that individuals feel they are safe, and can comfortably walk to the gents and come back without necessarily developing the fear of someone drugging them through their drinks.

Dinning together as family members are completely different from everyone concentrating to his/her smartphone conversations or tablets. It is all about uniting and getting in touch with one another and share information pertaining to their progress. Despite the different contexts that would arise from the conversation with a 4-year old and a 20-year old, parents are advised to take lead from each of the siblings and run with it. Generally, dinning together with the members of the family will enhance communication between parents and siblings, creating a healthy family.

III. Summary and Critique

Summary of Research Findings on Parental Roles in Family Communication

At the family level, effective communication is one of the key elements that parents must invest their efforts in order to realize healthy entity for better upbringing of the kids. Quite a number of scholars in the field of sociology have defined communications as a building block that is essential for a stable marital, parent-child and sibling relationships. Basically, family communication is all about the mechanisms by which members at home are relay both verbal and non-verbal information. On the other hand, other than talking, family communication is all about the ability of a sibling or a parent to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that other members would like to share.

According to previous findings on the topic of family communication, there exists a strong link between the roles played by parents and communication patterns. This further extends to how well the relationship between the family members is able to satisfy the various needs of both siblings and parents. For instance, the review identified that most of couples rating their communication to be positive must have been satisfied with their relationship for a period of not less than six years. This shows that indeed, poor communication is associated with cases increased risk of divorce, separation between the couples and a lot of behavioral problems in children.

The review detailed the different types and levels of family communication, with the major ones being verbal, non-verbal, intrapersonal and interpersonal way of conveying information. Basically, just like in the outside world, members of the family communicate with one another through different the above four forms and levels of communication. There are such times when it becomes difficult for members of the family to know what exactly their colleagues are feeling or thinking, and therefore, the reason to rely on communication as the best ways for conveying messages from each other. Furthermore, other than using language for the purposes of speaking and talking to one another, there is a lot that can be driven from communication.

The paper further tried to answer the question; how can parents enhance or rather ensure a more effective communication at the family level? In response to the above question, it is clear that parents should consider embracing such approaches like creating time for talking, family dates and gathering around the table when dinning. Embracing these approaches is guided by the fact that the key to coming up with a solid family is engaging in strong and meaningful conversation. Parents are called upon to enhance their home-harmony, by learning the different ways for starting off a conversation whenever they feel upset or angry. Both a harmonious and loving relationship at the family level can only be realized through a good communication between parents themselves, siblings; all the family members. An enhanced family communication cultivates love between parents and siblings, which further enriches trust, respects, and further assisting the family when it comes to facing ups and downs of life.

 

Limitations of the Parental Roles in Family Communication

The major limitation concerned with the parental role theory is the failure to differentiate the various roles played by the respective parents: father and mother. In most cases, the father is the bread winner in the family with mothers being housewives. This implies that mothers have plenty of time socializing with the kids as compared to fathers who are always away. In other words, the roles to be played by the respective parent should be clearly defined rather than grouping them under the basic assumption.

When the respective roles played by each parent are defined separately, there will be efficient in realizing the common goal; healthy family, since neither the father nor the mother will be relying on the other to undertake what the other’s role. In other words, there will be no confusion when planning to engage the siblings in talks during a planned family gathering or round table. Therefore, a gap is left on how to define the respective role in the context of enhancing family communication and the benefits expected to emerge from the same.

 

Directions for Future Research

Quite a number of the teenagers and young adults are demanding for trust from their parents. However, primarily, parents are not entitled to trust their children, but instead understand them. Just from a random field work activity, one can conclude that children will develop a lot of trust on their parents, if and only if, their parents take the initiative of understanding them. One of the best ways through which parents can demonstrate that they understand their children is by demonstrating a “listening heart.” This paves room for future research on the different ways through which parents can win trust from their children other than listening to them while engaging in dialogue.

The other direction for future research should be drawn from the major limitation of the literature review. Future research should entail differentiating the various roles played by the respective parents: father and mother.  This is based on the fact that the roles to be played by the respective parent should be clearly defined rather than grouping them under the basic assumption.

 

References

Corlett, J., & Twycross, A. (2006). Negotiation of parental roles within family‐centred care: a review of the research. Journal of Clinical Nursing15(10), 1308-1316.

Curtis, J. R., Patrick, D. L., Shannon, S. E., Treece, P. D., Engelberg, R. A., & Rubenfeld, G. D. (2001). The family conference as a focus to improve communication about end-of-life care in the intensive care unit: opportunities for improvement. Critical care medicine29(2), N26-N33.

Davalos, Deana B., Ernest L. Chavez, and Robert J. Guardiola. “Effects of perceived parental school support and family communication on delinquent behaviors in Latinos and white non-latinos.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 11, no. 1 (2005): 57.

Galvin, K. M., Braithwaite, D. O., & Bylund, C. L. (2015). Family communication: Cohesion and change. Routledge.

Heisler, J. M. (2005). Family communication about sex: Parents and college-aged offspring recall discussion topics, satisfaction, and parental involvement. The Journal of Family Communication5(4), 295-312.

Matsunaga, M. (2009). Parents Don’t (Always) Know Their Children Have Been Bullied: Child‐Parent Discrepancy on Bullying and Family‐Level Profile of Communication Standards. Human Communication Research35(2), 221-247.

Patterson, J. M. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of marriage and family64(2), 349-360.

Schrodt, P., Ledbetter, A. M., & Ohrt, J. K. (2007). Parental confirmation and affection as mediators of family communication patterns and children’s mental well-being. The Journal of Family Communication7(1), 23-46.

Sigafoos, J., Arthur-Kelly, M., & Butterfield, N. (2006). Enhancing Everyday Communication for Children with Disabilities. Brookes Publishing Company. PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285.

Vaughan, E., & Tinker, T. (2009). Effective health risk communication about pandemic influenza for vulnerable populations. American Journal of Public Health99(S2), S324-S332.

 

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