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Ep #116: Using Effective Communication to build deeper connections


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Smarter Parenting continues the story about how Effective Communication helps survivors of human trafficking in Africa and allows them to begin the healing process; and how the same outcome is possible for kids with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, etc.

Children who have experienced trauma have difficulty trusting adults and discussing that trauma. Effective Communication provides a safe space for them to feel comfortable talking about what they have experienced.

Effective Communication is a powerful tool because it can deepen relationships, no matter what a child is experiencing. Effective Communication allows a child to feel heard and understood, which in turn enables them to open up and discuss difficult topics.

Families that have open lines of communication are able to discuss difficult subjects and situations in constructive ways that lead to solutions instead of arguments and judgment.

The Teaching-Family Model allows parents to tailor their interactions with their children to find success.  It is used by agencies and families worldwide because the Model is culturally and individually sensitive.

Don’t forget to check out the skill of Effective Communication on SmarterParenting.com.

Episode Transcript

This is episode 116.

We welcome you to the ADHD Smarter Parenting Podcast. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Well, hello, everybody. How are you? Welcome back. Last week, we talked about my experience going to Africa with an agency that works with children who have been rescued from human trafficking. And it was a wonderful experience for me, I was able to reach out and really teach some skills, these skills from the Teaching-Family Model, in order to help change the behavior of children.

Now, last time, I also shared my experience with Sheila and the idea of Effective Communication as a way to work with her clients in helping them address the trauma that they have experienced.

Now, this is an ADHD podcast station. Obviously, we’re talking about skills that you can implement, but what I want to address to you is that we can use these skills for multiple issues that your children may be struggling with. In fact, I had a coaching session just this week, and we were talking about all the different diagnoses that these children have in this family and that these are the skills they would use for all of them.

We tweak it slightly based on your child and your experience and what they can learn, but this method, using the Teaching-Family Model, is something that your therapist or the whoever you may be working with will use as foundational skills in order to help your child succeed. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to learn these things and to use them in your home, because you can address it at home and working with your own children.

So during this podcast, I want to revisit that whole trip to Africa, things that I learned along the way and the way that it’s been implemented, and an update, because since I last recorded, I actually contacted Sheila and we communicated about how things were progressing. And get this, she is taking courses online in a school here in the United States, and so she’ll be flying here, and we plan to get together and catch up and talk.

So, it was a wonderful experience to communicate with her after all this time. She’s still working with children who are struggling with human trafficking, and she still helps to guide them along this process towards healing. So, we talked about the skills that she’s using there in the home, and I’ll share a little bit about how things have progressed since that training. But let’s jump back into Africa and the training that I had in working with Effective Communication.

Now, Sheila and I had some time to communicate about what was happening with the children who’ve been rescued from human trafficking. So, we talked, and we discussed why these skills, specifically Effective Communication, why that is so important for her to teach the kids and for them to use back and forth and that if set up a system where everyone communicates this way, including her as the head of the agency and some providing care, as well as all the staff and the kids in the home. When you establish a system of communication, like all the steps that are involved in Effective Communication, what happens is all communication becomes automatic. It becomes natural because if everyone communicates on the same page and at the same level, there’s this openness to how we can communicate about difficult topics.

I’ve worked with my fair share of children who struggled with trauma as well, and so we shared our experiences with that. And one of the things that we discussed is that the human body, when it is recalling something that has happened in the past, cannot differentiate an experience that has happened to us previously or that is happening in the moment. So, even if we think about something in the past, there is a physiological response that is happening within our bodies as we remember a past event. And the more traumatic it is, the more likely it becomes our current state. What we felt then comes back to what we’re feeling right now.

When we have an experience, the brain captures the information of the experience along with the emotions of the moment, and those are connected. So when the mind recalls the memory, the body also recalls the emotion and the responses. And if done enough, the emotion can be present without the memory. So that’s the tricky part, and that is what trauma is.

So, learning how to communicate about these things in a safe environment, using the steps of Effective Communication, made all the difference in Sheila working with the kids.

I’m going to go over the steps of Effective Communication because I think it’s important for you to know what they are and so you can have a refresher so when you’re teaching it with your child.

Now, when I spoke with Sheila, the idea was that she was going to learn the steps to the skill. And remember, there’s a lot of listening up front. In fact, you don’t even share your thoughts until step four; there’s six steps. So step one, step two, step three is listening, comprehending. Step four is express your thoughts and then step five and six. So let me go over the steps so you know what they are.

First step one, you want to look at the child or the person that you’re speaking to and pay attention to what they’re saying.

Step number two, once the child or the person that you’re speaking to is finished speaking, you want to use their words to describe what you understood.

Step number three, ask your child or the person you’re communicating with if what you said was what they meant, and they will correct you if you are wrong.

Step number four, in a calm manner, state your own thoughts on the subject.

Step number five, they must repeat what they heard and affirm they are right or correct them if they’re not. So you have to correct them if they’re incorrect in understanding, okay.

And then step number six is come to a solution of possible, if you’re trying to solve a problem. If not, you want to repeat these steps and use the skill of Decision Making to come up with a solution.

When I was communicating with Sheila initially, we were just talking as friends, and this has become so ingrained in the way that I communicate with people that I was doing it with her, and she was not realizing that I was using these steps. So I was using these steps. I was looking at her, I was waiting until she was finished speaking, and then I would use her own words to restate what I understood. And then I let her correct me if I was wrong, and then I shared my opinion, that’s step number four, and waited for her to verify that that was correct, and then we would continue this conversation. And what I found was she was not using the steps, and yet, while we were communicating with each other, because I was using the steps, she felt more connected and more able to communicate with me on a deeper level in a lot shorter time.

You’re going to find this happens with the children that you work with. When you use these skills, you’re going to find a deeper connection with your children. That they’re going to want to talk to you about things that are happening, and they will want to open up about difficult situations that are happening.

So, in talking with Sheila, we worked through this whole process of, “Hey, we’re going to use this skill. How are we going to use it?” And then I shocked her. I said, “Sheila, have you realized that I’ve been using the steps to Effective Communication during our conversation?” And she looked at me like she couldn’t believe that I was following the steps. And so we went back, and we evaluated our interaction with each other, and she’s like, “Wow, okay. I can see how that flows.”

It becomes very natural. The more and more you practice it, the more natural it becomes, and it just becomes a part of who you are and the way that you communicate with other people. I continue to communicate with people this way. And in fact, for some people, it drives them a little crazy because they want me to react and respond right away, whereas I’m seeking to understand where they’re at before I even make a comment or make a judgment.

Some people don’t like it, but at the same time, they’re able to communicate that. I repeat back what they say, and then I state my own thoughts and I say, “Well, it’s more important for me to listen and understand in order for me to respond based off of both of us being on the same page than to have me respond and then have you correct and then have miscommunication happen.”

So following these steps helps to eliminate the miscommunication that tends happen when you just state your opinion, and then the other person hears it and states their opinion. By repeating back what you hear, you’re able to get on the same page and feel validated, feel understood, and your children, your children are going to be able to pick this up.

A lot of parents think, “Okay, I’m going to sit down now and I’m going to teach my child all these steps.” That’s a wonderful thing, and in fact, I encourage that. I encourage you to jump over to the Smarter Parenting website, watch the video because there is a brief video, I think it’s about six minutes on how to use these steps and you can see an example from different parents using it with their children. So yeah, watch the video with your children and teach them the steps.

However, the power in this skill is going to be the same thing that I did with Sheila, which was you learn the steps. You learn them so intrinsically in the way that you communicate that you begin to speak this way and communicate this way with everyone. Not just your children, but with your boss, with your friends, with your family, with your parents, everyone, you start to communicate. You’re going to find that deeper conversations are going to occur. You’re not going to be satisfied at the superficial level of communication that tends to happen. So you’ll find that when I engage and interact with friends and with people that I know, we tend to go on a deeper level and we connect a lot faster because I’m using these steps.

Now, is it a manipulation on my part? No, it is not because for me, I prefer to have relationships that have deeper meaning. I’m not interested really in superficial relationships with people. So with my friends. I do this because I want to know. I want to be a part of their life. I want to understand them, and I want to learn from them, because I can learn. I honestly mostly approach people with the idea that I can learn from them as well.

Let’s jump back to Africa. I go in, we do the training. It was a powerful training. All day long, we did exercises where we stood and did some activities together where they interacted with each other. It was the first time some of these agencies had actually begun working with each other, even though they were working in the same field, they came from all over the country. And so a dialogue was started, communication started.

Near the end of that training session, it was very, very powerful for me to be able to direct them because we had been working up towards the end of the training, where we were going to implement these skills and see how well they were able to adopt them in order to go take them back to the clients that they were serving. And I can only tell you that that experience was almost spiritual. With those who were there at the training, it was one of the most emotionally moving things that I’ve done in my professional career in working with people, because we all were connected.

I used the skill of Effective Communication throughout the entire training. And I can tell you this, it was very important that I did because I was dealing with people from a different culture and a different background. I was dealing with people who have a different point of view, different ideas about how the world works and within their society, different laws, different ways of interacting and engaging with each other. And yet, by the end, we felt connected to each other, which is evidenced by me returning home and still continuing my communication with them. We still communicate through WhatsApp. They send me questions. I answer those. We send each other Merry Christmas, and this was all done through this interaction, this training session that we had. I cannot reiterate how important this skill is.

Now, let’s talk about Sheila and what she did when she took this back to the agency that she was working with in communicating. And then I’m going to share with you how you can implement Effective Communication with your child who struggles with ADHD. But before I do, let me leave you with this really cool message.

Do you need to take a parenting class? Do you need a certificate for that parenting class? Sign up for our online parenting class. Watch our lesson videos, complete quizzes, and download class assignments all from your home. Visit the Smarter Parenting website under the coaching tab and sign up for the silver, gold, or platinum level to access the class.

Let me explain what happened was Sheila. Sheila went back, and she began to implement Effective Communication as the focus of her agency change. She wanted to make some shifts and adjustments in the communication. And Sheila and I communicated back and forth about some of the cultural issues related to who can communicate, how much power somebody has within the culture. For example, what she reported to me is usually men speak first and women don’t speak very much, or they agree that there is this different cultural belief in the way that communication should happen. And we addressed that during the training.

During my conversation with her though afterwards in working with the kids, we tied it in with the trauma the kids had experienced as being saved from human trafficking. And again, we went back to the idea of what trauma is and how we experience trauma. And remember, I stated before, the human body cannot differentiate an experience that has happened to us previously or that is happening right now.

So, when we have an experience, the brain captures the information of the experience along with the emotions of the moment. These are connected. So when the mind recalls the memory, the body also recalls the emotion and the responses. And if done enough, the emotion can be present without the memory. This is the deep-seated trauma that children feel.

So, while I’m coaching her through this whole process and talking to her about Effective Communication of why it’s so essential, we started to recognize that if they could communicate the emotions that they were feeling, what they were experiencing without necessarily talking about the traumatic experience first, then we could help deal with what they were experiencing physically and help alter and change that in order to bring it out in more depth as they progressed during this process.

When I spoke with Sheila, we decided together that when a new child would come into the home, they would learn this skill. In fact, this would be one of the skills that they would pick up first. Learning how to communicate, learning how to listen, and then learning how to state your thoughts.

Now, the biggest problem that she reported was having the children relay their thoughts in an honest way, because they’d been heavily traumatized, so it was difficult for them to communicate their own thoughts on what was happening. In fact, they were taught not to think and not to have their own opinions about things, but to just follow orders.

It took some time for her to build some trust with them in order to have them communicate their own thoughts and their own ideas about things. But it was through this idea of letting them speak, letting them communicate their story, letting them tell what happened to them and waiting until they were done and sitting in silence afterwards, to allow the words to just linger in the air without responding immediately with an answer or with their own thoughts.

Sheila found this to be extremely helpful. A new child would come into the home. They would start with step one. She would look at the child and pay attention, put everything aside. And she dedicated a specific place in the home where they could have these conversations. So she would follow step number one, pay attention.

Step number two, allow the child to speak. Once the child is finished speaking, using their words to describe what she understood. So being very, very systematic. “Okay, this is what I heard. Is this what you meant? Is this is what I heard? This is what you meant.” And what happened was children began to open up more because they felt like, “Hey, somebody is listening to me, and they’re seeking to understand me.”

Now, Sheila went on with step number three, was verifying. She wanted to verify if what she was communicating was accurate. So she’d say, “Is this correct?” Now you can see the power in that because what you’re doing is you’re giving the power for a child to correct an adult, and this change in the relationship and the dynamic brings you to become equal in the relationship. You’re equal when you communicate this way. “You tell me, am I right? Am I wrong? Help me, help me understand.” Step number three.

Once the child agreed, she would move on to step four and she would call only state her thoughts. And what Sheila and I discussed was how much of her thoughts should she share, and we obviously both knew we’re not going to provide answers. We’re going to actually leave it open. So more communication can happen because we need to process this over time. We need to work on this over time.

So in a calm manner, state your thoughts on the subject. Step number four, she would just make statements about her thoughts and she would say, “Hey, thank you for sharing that. This is what you told me. This is what I understood from it, and let me share my thoughts. I’m here to help you. I’m here to guide you along this process. I’m here to protect you and to make you feel safe and I am here for you. So when you need to talk, when you need to come over and a shoulder to cry on, I’m here.” That opening allows for communication to continue to happen.

Step number five, she wanted the child to repeat back what they understood from what she said. And so she asked them, she said, “So what do you understand from what I just told you?” And Sheila reported that it was interesting to see the change in the spark, is what she called it in their eyes when they looked at her and they were like, “Oh wow, okay. I am being respected again and they want me to be sure that what Sheila is saying is what I understand. They want my opinion.” And so repeating back, what was understood between the communication, what they understood during the communication.

And then step number six was come to a solution if you can. Now in this case, with she lent her child, there was no resolution because this is an ongoing process of helping them open up more and more and building that trust. And that reliable trust between a child and the adult, that is helpful and that is beneficial for both, one of trust, because these children are highly distrustful of adults. So that was the goal in helping her work with the children who have been rescued from human trafficking.

As you can tell, this skill is something that we teach on the Smarter Parenting website, and I always talk about it’s amazing and it’s wonderful for parents to be able to use. And yet, sometimes I feel like people don’t understand the depth to where it’s being used, like used around the world. When I say that, I literally mean it’s being used around the world. So we are using this in Africa with these students. It’s culturally sensitive. Being used in New Zealand with the natives there. It’s been used all over the world. In Europe, there was an agency, I believe in Romania, they were using these skills in order to help their children.

It’s actually amazing to consider that I am sharing this knowledge with you through this podcast and it’s like, “Okay, we get it, we know.” And it’s almost like, “Hey, this is pretty simple, and I can do this and it’s pretty easy.” And yet, at the same time, you don’t realize the heavy implications of using this skill, what it can mean to a child and what it can mean to your relationship between you and your child. It’s fascinating.

Now you’re probably wondering, “How can I use this with my ADHD child?” It depends, it depends on where on the spectrum your child is with ADHD. Are they highly inattentive? Because having them repeat back what they understood, even in short segments is going to be helpful in maintained attention. So, if they’re on the high category where there’s a lot of disruption in their thoughts and they’re just very scattered in their thinking, helping them narrow down and focus on shorter responses and repeating back what is understood is going to be helpful. You want to tailor the communication based off of your child’s abilities.

If your child isn’t able to communicate in long, drawn-out paragraphs, then shorten the communication down to sentences. An example of this would be, “Okay, we’re going to communicate. Tell me what happened.” Your child’s going to go on a rant and tell you this long story. You’re going to repeat back bullet points of what happened.

Let me give you an example of this to help guide you along this whole process. You are a parent, your child comes to you and you want to Effectively Communicate with them about what happened, why they are late coming home. So you’ll say, “Okay, well come, tell me what happened. Why are you late coming home?” Okay, now your child is going to speak. So you’re going to begin this process of Effective Communication by using step one, you’re going to look at the child, pay attention to what he or she is saying.

Now, if your child has ADHD, they’re probably going off the rails on a huge, long story, and it’s probably a scattered story. This is where you, as a parent need to focus in. You’re going to pick out three bullet points from what he’s sharing. Three things that are very specific. Now, once your child has finished speaking, you’re going to use their words to describe those three things. So if the child comes in and says, “Hey, I was over at my friend’s house and then Tommy came over and we started playing video games. And then we went out and played with the dog and then I lost track of time because we started playing video games again and then the mom asked me for dinner.”

Okay. So this big, long, drawn-out story, you’re just going to pay attention to a few things in that whole discussion. And in fact, you can cut them off at a point and just say, “Okay, hang on. Let me just backtrack so I’m sure I understand. First, you went over there, you’re playing video games, played with the dog. Tommy came over. Is that right?” Have him say, “Yes.”

“Okay, continue on with the story.”

“Okay. So we play video games, and then I forgot the time, and then they invited me for dinner.”

“Okay. Hold on. Okay. So,” and then you just repeat back. You’re just going to make bullet points and you’re going to be very specific using their words for step number three.

After you finished that, that will give this idea of connection with your child because you’ve been paying attention. You’ve been repeating back in your child has agreed. They feel like, “Hey, okay, this person gets me. They understand me.”

Step number four, in a calm manner, state your thoughts. It may take a while because they may have a long story, but you want to be calm and state your thoughts on the subject. Just tell them, “Hey, well, you told me everything that’s been going on.” Step number four. “I think you should have called me. You should have called me knowing that you were going to be late. You should have called me to let me know that you were going to stay for dinner.” Just something really short and simple like that. And then you have them repeat back. “So what do you understand from what I just said?”

And then have the child come back. Because they can restate one, two or three topic. “I should have called first.” Okay. So then you move on to step six, which has come up with a solution. “What can we do so you can remember to call if you’re going to be late?” So come up with a solution, which could be possibly having you call him five minutes before it’s time, because he may lose track. Letting the parents know that he needs to call in because he has a certain time that he needs to play, or coming up with a solution where, if he has a watch, the timer will go off to remind him, “Hey, I need to call home at this time.”

There are different approaches that you can use to come up with a solution. But as you can see where the child who struggles with ADHD, these steps are doable. They’re very doable. You just need to tailor them to the child’s needs.

Now with Sheila and the clients that she’s working with, obviously, they’re dealing with a lot of trauma. Some of them have ADHD, as well. We want to tailor Effective Communication. And by tailor, I don’t mean change the steps. You’re not changing the steps, but what you are doing is adjusting to the needs of the child. The child can’t focus very long, then you’re just going to shorten or abbreviate what they’re communicating back to you and repeat back in bullet points so they can stay focused on what’s happening.

With Sheila and her clients, she is going to be able to focus in more on repeating back and being sure that the child feels understood. She’s going to spend a lot of time in that area of step number three. And then, in step number four, she’s going to leave it open. Step number six, where you come up with a solution, she’s going to leave it open. She wants to leave it open because she wants the child to come back and continue to communicate as they work on the road towards recovery.

Now, as I had mentioned before, an update with Sheila. Since I had last recorded, I contacted her, found out she is doing a program at a university here in the United States, and she’s doing that online. So she’ll be living in Africa, but doing the program here. And she’s eventually going to come here to America for some of that program, which I’m super excited about because we’ve made arrangements to connect at that time where we can talk. And I’m hoping to bring her on the podcast because I think it would be great for you to listen and to get her perspective on this story.

Stay tuned because I think that’s probably going to come up around the spring, we’re hoping if COVID changes. If not, we may have to wait just a little bit, but I would love to bring her on here just to share her experience with Effective Communication and how it’s helped her and the kids that she’s working with and how it can help you and the children that you’re struggling with.

Now, we are moving into a New Year and let me tell you what’s coming up, because I think it’s important for you to know. We are answering some very specific questions that you guys have sent to us regarding how to deal with this whole situation with COVID parenting. We, as parents, have been doing this and kind of winging it for this year. However, some really salient issues have come up during this time. And as we continue down the road of having distance learning, parent relations, working with teachers, we are addressing those issues in the podcast to come in the year to come. So I highly recommend that you tune in and share it with others.

In fact, I’m so excited about the first podcast that will be released in the New Year. It’s related to a parent who said the following statement to me, he said, “I guess I’m just not the parent I thought I would be.” That cut deep, that really cut deep to me. But it was a wonderful conversation and a wonderful way that we could use skills to help address what kind of parent he hoped he would be and what kind of parent he can be. This transformation, sharing of the information and the skills and then working it so we can see a greater transformation down the road.

I’m super excited to share that one at the beginning of the year of 2021. I look forward for great things happening in 2021, but in the meantime, we are here to help you. If you need coaching, sign up, I’m here to help. All right, that’s it for me and I will talk to you next time. Thanks. Bye.Join the Smarter Parenting Club


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Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.