Communication is a two-way street; make an effort to model appropriate communication skills to your child
Good communication is one of the core components of any positive relationship. Feeling heard, understood, and accepted is a basic human need that makes people feel valued and often empowers us to speak up in other important areas of life. Therefore, it’s essential to develop and maintain good communication skills with your child as early as possible.
Although it may not seem as important when they’re younger, positive communication actually models appropriate behavior and builds the foundation for your lifelong relationship with your child. Working on communication skills with your young child can benefit not only your family life but also their future.
Make a concentrated effort to present a positive example of good communication with the following tips and tricks.
Start conversations often. If you are met with dead-end answers, try another avenue of discourse. Ask open-ended questions, share what you’ve been thinking about and ask for their opinions, or learn about their interests. Sure, the nuances of “PAW Patrol” may be the last thing you want to hear about after a long day at work, but you’re investing in future dialogue by showing an interest in what seems like the little things now.
There are certain times when it’s easier to get kids to engage in conversation, such as during a car ride or at bedtime. Take advantage of these instances to hear more about their day or to find out about their hopes, dreams, or concerns. Also, aside from taking advantage of free moments, schedule time for one-on-one activities such as baking, art, or visits to the museum or zoo.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your response while the other person is still speaking. Don’t do that. Give the speaker your undivided attention and an authentic reaction. It’s even easier to tune your young child out automatically; stop what you are doing and listen. Express interest and ask questions without interrupting. Repeat what you heard them say or what you interpreted their statement to mean to make sure you’re on the same page.
Sometimes knowing what to say is the hard part. It’s important to teach your children that it’s OK to disagree, although it’s not easy. Express your opinion without putting theirs down, and soften your reaction so that you don’t seem defensive or angry. Acknowledge their feelings even if you don’t understand them.
Good communication requires understanding the speaker’s intent. Does your child want advice or sympathy? Ask them how you can help. Although parental instincts might make you want to jump in and fix things, it’s important for them to know that you’re available for the role of listening, too.
As adults, communication feels like something we just naturally do, without a lot of thought or effort – and that’s unfortunate. Good communication doesn’t come naturally, and most people could benefit from evaluating their behavior during conversations. Make a habit of putting forth a genuine attempt at mutual, two-way dialogue with your children, and see how that translates to the way you communicate with others in your social circle. The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.