There is nothing as deafening as silence. The silence between my mother and me had been going on for three years. The reasons it all started no longer seem important. I couldn’t let go of my anger and pride even though I needed my mother desperately. I’d say I needed an apology first. That it wasn’t my fault and I didn’t deserve to have to be the one to bridge the gap. Slowly, I decided I could talk to my mother while I was still angry—the hurt didn’t have to be gone first. That first phone call seemed like volunteering to serve on the front lines. When I heard my mother’s voice I started to cry; so did she. I’m still regretful of those wasted years but grateful for the phone call that opened communication up again for me and my mother.
Family experts have said, “the difference between a balanced family system and an unbalanced family system is like the difference between a professional skier and a novice skier. In general, to stay balanced, both skiers and families need to make small, subtle adjustments over time. Without these small adjustments, they may lose their balance, and it will take a major adjustment to regain that balance.”
Communication is not only necessary for families to be able to touch base with one another, it is important in fighting some of the ills that society presents today. Communication is one of many tools families can use in order to strengthen family cohesion.
Several studies have found that enhanced communication produces positive benefits for families. For example, communication can help families feel closer to their extended families and feel a sense of pride in family history and other family members’ accomplishments. Communication within the immediate family also helps children in external social situations. One study found young adults from high-conversation-orientation families have better face-to-face communication skills, increasing friendship closeness and illustrating how family communication patterns influence extra-familial relationships. Additionally, results from this study show parents’ communication behaviors and skills enhance children’s social well-being.
Another study showed that family narratives expressed over family dinners are an effective means of communication helping families to come closer together and keep children safer from societal ills. Mothers’ and fathers’ interactions with their children through dinner time conversations help children feel a greater connection to their family as well as helping parents feel more at ease about the evils their children face. Children were reported as having more connection to parents and positive feelings of self-worth after communication was improved with parents.
These studies illuminate one common thread: communication is a positive tool for families to use in creating more cohesion. Enhanced family communication helps families fight social ills. Families should be aware of ways to enhance their communication, including building one another’s virtues and character strengths.