One of our main roles as parents is to model and foster positive communication habits in our children
This leads to a positive self-concept which later influences our child’s confidence, motivation and capacity to deal with stress and negative experiences.
When communicating with your child, you need to bear their age and reasoning capacity in mind, as well as the kind of language to use and how you respond.
Remember that often our children desire our attention, and when they talk to us is when we can give them what they need.
Tips for communicating with children of all ages
For babies and toddlers:
- Respond to their cries because this is also a way of communicating for young children
- Attend to their needs and talk them through it
- Physically lower yourself and face your child so that you’re at eye level and seem less intimidating
- Maintain eye contact to maintain connection to your child
- Allow your child to say what they need to say and allow them to finish talking before you interrupt or respond
- Encourage them to keep going and tell you more
- Be attentive – try not to show impatience or distraction while your child is talking
- Answer questions using simple language and reassuring gestures
With older children:
- Make time and space every day to talk to them without any distractions (i.e. “talk time” or at the dinner table)
- Pay attention to what they are saying and validate their thoughts and feelings
- Encourage more from them by asking open-ended questions rather than ones they can answer just “yes” or “no” to
- Allow your child to voice their own thoughts and opinions, even if they’re different from yours
- Try not to lecture or criticise your child – rather help them talk through solutions to their confusion or challenges
- If you are upset or feel angry at something your child has done, rather speak to them at a later time when you have calmed down
- Watch your body language and your tone of voice – this also communicates a lot
Teaching your child to communicate well contributes to them developing good academic skills, increased confidence in their learning and positive interactions with others around them. Also remember to use words of encouragement, praise and reinforce positive behaviours and interactions your child shows.
Children also model our behaviour, so ensure that you communicate with empathy, be fair and respectful and model healthy boundaries even in the way you communicate with them and others.