Imagine the last time you were trying to communicate with someone and either they could not understand what you were trying to say, or you could not understand what they were. Perhaps you were talking to a doctor or lawyer, or my least favorite an insurance representative. Think back to your emotions, likely frustration, anger, annoyance, etc.
As adults communicating with children can be difficult. Even though we once were a child we often forget how it feels to not always be able to have the words to express ourselves. The fact you clicked on this post tells me that one of these two scenarios will ring true with you:
At the time of writing this blog I had a 20 month old little boy...at this stage he was starting to find words, but with a limited vocabulary he often got frustrated and threw a bit of a tantrum. This was his way of expressing his emotions.
On the flip side I have also been watching as my oldest niece enters the teenage years. She is a great girl, but often gets frustrated (aka rolls her eyes or makes a smart aleck comment) with her parents because “I feel like no one gets it” because “mom and dad are just so old they don’t understand.”
Does that sound familiar? Children are amazing little humans and if given the right support and resources, figure out a way to succeed in life. Here are 3 ways to improve your communication today with any child.
1: Show Empathy and understanding
Help your child to understand that you know what they are going through, despite never having gone through EXACTLY what they are going through. Find the emotion that is coupled with their experience (i.e. sadness, frustration, anxiousness) and relate to them a time when you felt that emotion. It helps them to connect to you and provides hope that it won’t last forever and they can get through whatever they are experiencing.
2: Ask open-ended questions
When you ask YES or NO questions, children will respond with YES or NO answers. Asking questions like “tell me your favorite part of your day” rather than “How was your day?” This helps them to know that you are interested in them and what they have going on in their life and provides room for them to tell you what is happening. Be kind in your responses back to them. And be CURIOUS, don’t expect the answer you always want, if you ask about the favorite part of their day, ask follow up questions to help you understand why that was their favorite part. Avoid putting them down if you thought it should have been something else.
3: Give them your time and undivided attention
In an ever growing, very busy world where it seems like more and more demands are placed on us (or rather we place on ourselves) children need to know that they are loved and that they are special to us. When we devote a few minutes each day to each child individually, it helps reinforce to them that they mean something to us. If we talk to them while doing other tasks, or being distracted by phones, TVs, other people, it sends the message that “I am not important enough to mom and/or dad.” Give them direct eye contact and your undivided attention to help them know that you love, accept, and respect them.
Children want to know they are important and that they matter to their parents and in their family. The more you can communicate that to them without criticism or defensiveness, the more open and honest your communication can be with them. If you feel like you could use some help connecting closer with your kids you can get in touch with one of our therapists by clicking the button below: