As children grow, they become better at talking about their feelings. However, even though your child has grown up, he or she still needs a parent or adult to help him or her understand and express his or her feelings. When you communicate with your child, you are listening to his emotions and responding to his need to share them. You are also letting your child know that he or she is important to you.
The importance of communication at school age
During a school day, a child accumulates some tension and fatigue. Sometimes they have to keep their emotions to themselves and deal with them alone. They may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings with their teacher or friends. Sometimes it’s just not the right time.
When you listen to your child at home, he or she can release all that stress and feel better. He develops a sense of emotional security. He feels that you validate him and that what he is experiencing is normal. He can then develop strategies to better manage his emotions if a similar situation occurs again. They are also better prepared to learn when they return to class the next day.
It is through communication that you can also develop a positive relationship with your child. When you listen to your child, you reinforce his confidence in himself and in adults. Your child recognizes his or her own value because they see that you are interested in them and what they are experiencing.
By establishing open and honest communication with your child, he will more easily talk to you about the important things that are happening in his life. Likewise, you’ll feel more comfortable when the time comes to talk about more difficult topics. If your child knows he can talk to you about what he’s going through, he’ll be more likely to talk to you about his needs and worries. They will also feel more comfortable asking you questions.
Keys to good communication
To establish good communication with your child, certain elements are essential.
Choose a calm environment without distractions. Communication with your child will be easier if he or she feels that you are paying attention. Also, limit double-tasking, such as looking at your phone while your child is talking to you. They need to feel that they have your full attention.
Choose a time when your child is available. Your child may not want to talk if he or she is absorbed in a TV show or game. It’s best to wait for another time to talk to your child. Mealtime and bedtime can be good times to talk, as long as you avoid topics that might upset your child.
Be brief and clear. Your child will understand the message better if you use a developmentally appropriate level of language. Use simple words and short sentences. Avoid long monologues. The goal is to have positive discussions.
Pay attention to non-verbal communication. Your child’s attitude and gestures send you messages that can help you better relate to him. For example, averted gazes and a closed position, such as turning your back or lowering your head, can indicate discomfort in your child.
Use “I” rather than “you”. This will prevent your child from feeling criticized. It will also provide a good model of communication that your child can use with other children.
Be respectful. Avoid blaming or generalizing with words like “always” or “never”. For example, phrases like “you always forget your book at school” or “you’re never happy with dinner” can cause a child to shut down and withhold information from you.
Be open. If you disagree with your child, let him or her know that it’s okay not to agree on everything and try to see things from his or her perspective. Do not be judgmental. However, explain the values that are important in your family and that they should respect. It is important to be open to what your child has to say. This will give them a safe space to learn to talk about their ideas.
Discussing an incident at school
If your child has not been behaving well at school, focus on the behavior, not the person. If you feel it is appropriate to reprimand your child because of a message from his or her teacher, give your child an appropriate consequence for his or her action. However, keep in mind that he or she has probably already been punished at school. Therefore, it may be appropriate for you to give clear feedback about the day, but not to make the discussion all negative.
If in doubt, it is best to validate the information directly with the school. If you do not agree with a situation at school, it is preferable to speak directly to the stakeholders rather than mention it to your child. It is important that your child feels that he or she can trust the adults at school and at home.
How can you encourage your child to talk?
In some situations, humour can make it easier for your child to talk to you.
After starting school, your child is able to express himself better. However, there are other challenges that can make communication difficult.
For example, some children seem to have nothing to say. Even school-age children have difficulty answering a vague question like, “What did you do today? Instead, ask your child, “Who did you play with at school today?” or “What was your favorite thing to do in class?” Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. If your child can’t remember the day, help him or her by placing it in time. For example, ask, “What did you play at recess?” To inspire him/her, you can start by telling him/her about your own day.
Your child may not be able to find the words to express how he or she feels. A good way to help them do this is to play with them. Your child can talk about his worries with his dolls and figurines or by drawing a picture of a moment in his day. Playing allows your child to step back from a situation that is troubling them and explore solutions. When you play with your child, he or she also feels that you are listening to him or her, and this helps to reduce stress levels.
Finally, some children refuse contact and become distant. To avoid this, make sure you set aside time for your child. A child may isolate himself because he is afraid of disturbing a parent who is often absent. Your child knows you are there for him if he sees that you are available. With all family members, set aside a time in the evening that everyone will make sure to respect.
Tips for communicating with your child
When talking to your child, make sure he or she feels involved in the discussion. For some children, it is helpful to get down to their level to talk. Your child needs to feel that this discussion is important to you too.
Talk with your child about his or her interests. Show them that their opinions and likes are important to you.
Spend time together as a family doing different activities. Your child will feel that he or she is an important person in the family. He or she will want to talk to you more.
Sometimes just being with your child is enough to establish a bond between you. Empathetic silence can be comforting. A hug and a kiss are also ways to communicate.
If your child is frustrated, show that you’re listening by using words like “Oh,” “Oh,” or “Oh, well. This invites your child to explore his thoughts and feelings and find solutions. This gives your child time to figure out the problem on his own.
Show your child that his or her emotions are normal and acknowledge the impact a situation may have on him or her. So describe the emotions they seem to be experiencing: “I see that made you very angry! When you name their emotions, your child is comforted. If your child is unable to do this, don’t hesitate to use pictures to help him/her.
When your child tells you about a problem he or she has experienced during the day, invite them to share solutions with you. If they can’t think of any, you can help them come up with some, all without judgment.
Rephrase what your child has just told you in your own words to make sure you understand.
If your child seems reluctant to answer your questions, start by stating your opinion and let your child open up to you at his own pace. If your child is not receptive to a one-on-one discussion, you can talk while playing a board game or taking a walk outside.
If your child asks you a question, don’t be too quick to give the answer. Ask them what they think about it first. This will help you learn more about what your child already knows about the subject.
If you don’t know the answer or don’t know how to approach it, that’s okay. You can tell your child that it’s a good question, that you’ll think about it and come back to it later. This will give you time to find an appropriate answer.
If, despite your attempts, it seems difficult for your child to communicate, you could contact a competent professional to help you with your parenting interventions.