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Communicating With Children

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 6 Jun 2014 | comments*Discuss
 
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Communicating with children requires certain skills. Parents must remember that children are still learning and developing so being able to communicate with them on their own level is imperative. In particular, parents must remember to use vocabulary that can be understood by their child, a calm tone and body language that will not send mixed messages. Parents should also allow plenty of time each day to speak with their children and stay involved in each other’s lives.

Use Appropriate Vocabulary
Using appropriate vocabulary when communicating with children is a two-fold process and requires using both vocabulary that children can comprehend, and using socially acceptable vocabulary. Which vocabulary words will be understood by a child will depend on the child, but a good general rule of thumb is that parents should use words that children use themselves. For example, children may not understand the word “uncomfortable”, but they may well identify this concept as “feeling funny”. Of course parents can also ask questions and lead children to elaborate on what “feeling funny” means, and then introduce the word “uncomfortable”. Bending down to look children in the eyes while speaking with them not only shows respect to the child, but also allows parents to gauge how much of their conversation children are actually understanding. At the same time, parents must remember that children are very likely to pick up the vocabulary that adults use which means that socially acceptable vocabulary should be employed at all times.

Use a Calm Tone
In order to communicate effectively with children, parents must use a calm tone. Children are very sensitive to anger, so when parents raise their voices children often neglect to hear what parents are saying and focus instead on how parents are saying it. When parents yell or scream, children often focus solely on the fact that parents are yelling and that they must be in trouble. Keep children in the moment and paying attention to what parents are saying by using a calm and controlled tone throughout.

Use Appropriate Body Language
Children are still learning social cues and customs, so parents should avoid confusing them with mixed messages. Body language can either support or deny what someone is saying, and parents must remember this. For example, telling children that their misbehaviour has been forgiven while wearing a frown and crossing arms does not send the same message. Similarly, telling children that they are misbehaving while laughing and hugging them also sends a mixed message. Parents should avoid all confusion and communicate their messages consistently through both their words and actions.

Use Time Wisely
Each day, parents have multiple opportunities in which they can speak with their children. Even if it is just a few minutes at a time, parents should exploit these opportunities by asking their children questions, allowing their children time to talk without interruption and asking their children about their opinions. Making time to speak with each child individually is ideal, but a family discussion during a short drive or around the dinner table will help keep everyone connected as well.

Communicating with children is not necessarily hard, but it does require certain skills. Parents must use appropriate vocabulary when speaking with children, use a calm tone and appropriate body language, and remember to use their time wisely to speak with their children daily. With practice, family communication should become both effective and easy.

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It's important not to talk down to children. Yes, use vocabulary they can understand, but talk to them as people, with respect. When they do something dangerous, such as dashing out into the street, then you can initially raise your voice to stop them. After that, though, talk calmly and make sure they understand you. In other situations, put yourself on the same level physically, by kneeling, to talk to them.
rich - 23-Jun-12 @ 8:00 AM
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