What interferes with open communication

Sometimes communication is difficult. Perhaps one or more family members have strong feelings about the situation and express these feelings in ways that may confuse the child. Warning signs may include:

• Family members feel very angry towards one another.They have trouble dealing with and expressing these feelings.

• Family members feel very defensive and resentful.They may think that others blame them for another family member's problems. For example, a parent may feel blamed for the child's problems or a grandparent may feel blamed for a parent's problems.

• Family members feel hostile toward people outside the family. This may include teachers or other school personnel,"the system," or professionals who are trying to help.They may turn down support or help that is offered.

These feelings affect children. Feelings that are communicated in very negative ways, such as sarcasm, shouting, yelling, mean statements, hostile silence, or even hitting are harmful.They affect the child's communication with others and distance them from people who are trying to help. Negative communication keeps families from understanding that every member plays a role. It also can make families less open to change and lead to problems in the child's life.

Young child's behavior Possible meanings of the behavior

Crying, distress

I'm tired or hungry. I feel like no one loves me. I want to be held.

It hurts my feelings when people don't keep promises.

I have trouble trusting people because so many people I love have betrayed me.

I want to go home where I feel safe and loved.

Withdrawal I want everything to go back to the way it used to be.

I want some time alone.

I feel alone and depressed. I wish someone would talk to me and say they love me.

Intense fear of strangers

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