Raising children is a journey filled with joys and challenges. Healthy communication at every stage of development is crucial to creating an enjoyable relationship with your child.
This is why we are sharing some key skills about how to talk to your kids in this week’s blog, whatever age they may be.
Infancy and Toddlerhood
Communication starts when your child is born, with eye contact, reading or singing, providing a safe environment in which the child’s physical and emotional needs are met.
Narrate your day to help your child become familiar with language and create a bond. As your child becomes more active and adventurous, ensure that you’re communicating what you want them to do. For example, instead of saying “Don’t run!”, consider phrasing it like “Please use walking feet.”
Toddlers often have BIG emotions! Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block, coined the idea of speaking in “toddler-ese”. He describes it as speaking in short, simple phrases, using repetition, and mirroring your child’s emotions. This is the beginning of showing your child that you care by validating their feelings and providing sincere empathy in your communication with them.
Let’s look at an example, your 2-year-old child wants a sweet treat before dinner and when told ‘no’, melts onto the floor, kicking and screaming. You could get down on his or her level saying “You’re mad! Mad! Mad! You want your treat now!” reflecting the intensity of the feeling in your words. Once children feel heard, they often relax and are able to participate in determining an alternative such as having a snack after they finish their meal.
Begin giving your child some decision-making power within your boundaries and structure, such as “would you like the red cup or blue cup?”. You can also creatively engage children by making a task fun like “would you like to hop or skip to the car?”
Remember, you set the tone for your home in your communication. This stage is a great time to create a foundation of healthy boundaries set in a respectful, caring way.
Moving from Toddlerhood into the elementary years, your child has matured from speaking a few words to complete sentences. Enjoy your child’s active imagination and don’t be afraid to join in as they talk about their make-believe worlds.
- Take the time to talk about the real world around you including flowers and bugs in the grass, stop signs, favorite places to go, and people to see.
- Model healthy communication such as using manners, saying goodbye to a family member leaving or hello when they return, respectfully asking for help, and showing interest in each other’s activities/hobbies.
- Ask specific questions about your child’s day like “who did you play with at school?” “What is something you are looking forward to?” and try to answer their questions in an age appropriate, open, and honest way.
Have you heard of “Special Time”? This was created by Hand in Hand founder Patty Wipfler and is a great opportunity to spend one-on-one time with your child without any distractions. This time will strengthen your communication, build trust, and reduce poor behaviour.
Begin by sharing with your child that you are available for the next 15 mins (or whatever amount of time you have) to play whatever they want to play. Allow the child to lead and give them your undivided attention. Set a timer and give them a 5-minute warning when the time is almost over. Try to practice this daily. Play is the language of kids and the best way to communicate with them.
Moving into the teenage years, communication may become more tense. Even if your teen doesn’t appear to want to be with you or talk with you, your presence is still important to them.
- Continue to try to engage in mutual interests and activities together, and genuinely ask your teen about things that are important to them.
- Model respect and regulation in your verbal and nonverbal communication, even if your teen is not being respectful to you.
Raising Human Beings by Dr. Ross Greene is a great resource for learning how to collaborate with your adolescent. Involving your child in the problem-solving process will improve communication and cooperation.
Most importantly throughout this journey, make sure that you are taking time to take care of YOU.
- Continue to find enjoyable activities outside of raising your family.
- Create a community of people around you who you trust to watch your children, who will encourage you in the tough days and celebrate with you all the beautiful accomplishments your children will achieve.
- Check out your local library for many great resources in parenting. Your child’s school or daycare may also have resources for improving communication.
- Work out what your triggers are. Those things which stop you from communicating in the way you’d wish and then seek help to work through those.
Babylon is here to support you in this journey! Don’t hesitate to book an appointment in the app with a Behavioural Health Specialist or Clinician for help in improving communication skills, reducing relational stress, understanding how your past life experiences could be impacting you now, and much more.