8 October 2021
How does your child express? Communication is the key in teaching children how they need to express their needs, emotions and feelings. Teaching a child how to express themselves effectively is a very integral part of self-esteem and identity.
Sometimes as parents our communication with our kids seems more like an instruction manual. “Do this! Finish your homework! “Have you finished your homework”, “You sleep on time”. Remember the last time you had spent quality time with your child? When was the last time you listened to their stories?
Teaching communication to kids involves a check-in on how we ourselves communicate with them. Children learn quicker from mirroring. Effective communication with your kids starts right from the time you go to wake up your child. What is that we can as parents to help children develop their communication skills.
Active listening: Imagine if you are talking with your co-worker and they are constantly on the phone, how would you feel? A child feels the same. When you talk to your child, listen to him actively. Look at them, give them eye contact and make them feel that they are being heard. Tell them, “Yes, I am listening” or “Please tell me more”.
Open body language: As parents, it is essential to look approachable. Our body language should be welcoming. 65% of communication is body language.
Use Empathy: While responding to a child’s need, respond by looking at it from the child’s perspective. Listen and reason with the child. Help your child to express themselves.
Avoid DON’Ts: Imagine someone constantly telling you, “you are NOT organized” or “You Don’t keep your belongings in place”. Constant saying don’ts can be demotivating right? So, it would be helpful to use do’s or be more positive in our communication. “Rahul, be more organized” or “Rahul, please keep your belongings in place” will be a better way of communicating.
Use I statements: “You always irritate me!” or ” You never listen to me!”. If someone talks to you in this manner you would most likely become defensive. The term “you”, sounds like criticizing another person. So, it would be helpful to use “I” instead. For example, “I get hurt when I am not heard” or “I get upset/ irritated when I am being treated in this way”.
Show respect: Be respectful and kind to your child. It is important to use words like please, thank you, sorry, etc. It is essential to communicate by using sentences like, “Please give me a glass of water”, “Thank you so much for helping” or “Sorry I was late to pick you up”.
Focus “What” instead of “Why” – Many times children say “I do not want to play with him”. Try and understand the reason. Instead of forcing kids to get along from the get-go, try and understand what’s bothering your child. So, you may ask questions like, “How do you feel when you play with him?”, “What is it that you don’t like about playing with him?” or “What can I help you with?”
Ask about their day: Children go through a lot. At bedtime, make it a practice to ask them about their day. What did they like about the day? How did it go? Do not assume that they don’t go through ups and downs. Share with them about your day as well.
Acknowledge their emotions: Children can feel sad or stressed. Ask them about their feelings. Understand what part of the situation is stressful. Encourage them to express and identify their emotions
Polish their confidence: We often expect perfectionism from ourselves as well as our children. Allow them to be themselves and have confidence. Yes they will make mistakes and they will have failures but soon they will learn it’s a part of learning. Don’t let their confidence be led by our expectations.
Praise them often: Praise them when they are open and expressive. Don’t shun them away.
Keep a journal: You can always encourage your child to journal their feelings and thoughts. It helps them to keep a check on what they might be going through and helps them get perspective.
Parents are role models for children. Children learn by imitation. Behaviors, emotion expression and communication skills shown by parents are learnt by children. Creating an environment in the house where communication plays an active role in decision making, problem solving, emotional expression and exhibiting confidence. However, most importantly, allow your child to be “who he/she is” not “who he/she should be”. Keep learning and keep teaching!
Mansi M Doshi
Licensed Clinical Psychological and Psychotherapist. She is the founder of “Cognitive Balance”, the center for emotional well-being and mental health. She has been in the field of psychology for the past 18 years. She has also done her specialization in Play therapy from the British Association of Play therapist and Mayo Clinic (USA). She has been associated with various schools, children, and adults in handling emotional, behavioral, and learning concerns.
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