For children, communication skills serve a foundational and interdependent role in cognitive development and growth. Let’s refresh our understanding of how we can get back to basics and bring the art (and bonding qualities) of communication back into the spotlight.
Time to reflect
A lot of the time, improved communication can start with increasing your own use of sustained, selective and executive attention. Consider this – you’re at work and you begin a conversation with a colleague. They’re distracted by something else, and as you speak to them, they remain focused on the other task at hand, barely looking up or even looking at you. There’s a good chance you will walk away feeling frustrated and probably a little bit hurt that they didn’t take the time to pay attention to what you were saying.
Children rely on attention-based interaction even more than you might with your work colleague – so imagine how your child feels when they are attempting to communicate but don’t have your full, or at least substantial, attention.
Even on the best of days, you are multi-tasking in ways you may never have before. But remember, during these extenuating circumstances of COVID-19 and high pressure environments, the first thing to suffer is our communication and attention skills, and they can be very hard to get back if let go for too long.
Pay attention to their style
Every adult varies in their communication preferences and children are no exception to this. You’ll agree that it’s much easier to communicate with someone if your style is complementary, so be mindful of the same benefits when it comes to talking and communicating with children.
Visual communication – increase your use of adjectives in conversations. “Wow, the clouds are super white and fluffy today, I can see animal shapes in them, can you?”.
Verbal communication – create opportunities be more sensitive to audial inputs when engaging in conversation and invite broader use of verbal dialogue. “I’m just going to turn the tv down so I can chat to you better.”
Non verbal communication – be mindful of your body language, facial expressions and tone. Non verbal communicators also rely heavily on kinesthetic experience. “You seem a bit restless, maybe you would like to do something relaxing for a few minutes?” said with a calm manner that matches your comment.
Pay attention beyond the words
Younger children often become easily frustrated when they feel they aren’t being understood. And that’s a given – considering the exponential language development that can occur from birth until around 8 years of age.
Adults on the other hand are supercomputers, we have the neural networks and powers to not only obtain large amounts of information, but communicate large amounts of information all at the same time.
Next time your child is getting frustrated when they are saying something, take a 3 second moment to pause before responding and consider what your child is trying to say beyond their vocabulary limit. Did they say something that didn’t match their body language? Are they distracted whilst trying to communicate and losing focus on using the correct words?
Short, sweet and classic games to build communication
A whispering message
This age-old favourite and popular game may help enhance good listening skills in kids and can be played by kids of all age groups. This time, instead of focussing on what can go wrong in the message, focus on what can be achieved in a clear message. Working best with three people, you can include other members of the family or group as well to participate.
Tell the child you are going to whisper a secret in their ear and you want them to tell the other person in the house/group exactly what the secret was, but you expect them to repeat it back to you so you will know if the message got through. You can start with a simple message and slowly progress to more complex sentences.
Identify the Object
Either blindfold or ask the child to close their eyes and place one object you think they will know in their hands. Describe the object without naming it, with the child guessing what it could be after each clue. Swap turns! Now that they’ve heard you use your vocabulary to describe the object in detail without naming it, getting them to do the same will really help open up their understanding of effective and clear communication.
Finish my story
This game can be played a number of ways depending on your child’s age or interests.
Draw a random doodle on a page and ask them to turn it into a drawing using the lines already on the page, then ask them to tell you all about their drawing.
Or narrate the first part of a story out loud, and then ask them to finish the adventure using only one sentence.
You’ll be surprised how full of imagination they still are and how enthusiastic they will be in communicating that imagination!
Want to support your child’s communication skills by strengthening their attention skills? Speak to the team at TALi on 1300 082 013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org