Communicating with younger children

Oct 2012
Communicating with children
Your body language can both support and contradict your message

Learning to communicate effectively is a skill and this skillset increases when learning to communicate with children. Children not only hear the words you are saying but will also pick up on the tone of your voice, your body language, your facial expressions and your level of attention.

Your child will be watching, listening and absorbing vast amounts of information with each conversation so it is important to communicate at their level. Here are some points to consider when communicating with your chid, to maximise the effectiveness of your communication.

Body language
Your body language can both support and contradict the message you are giving and non-verbal communication can often be even more powerful than the words you say. Both facial expressions and posture will be acknowledged by your child and may even be mirrored in their body language.

Ensure that the words you say and the way you hold your body complement each other to avoid confusion. If you are happy with something your child has done, ensure your praise is coupled with open body language rather than crossed arms or a stern face. Dropping down to your child's level rather than speaking down to them can also support effective communication as it shows your child how important this piece of communication is. This will also help you to assess how much of the information they are taking in.

Though speaking to your child with varied vocabulary can be a great way to build their vocabulary, when you are trying to communicate an important point it can be beneficial to use words within their current range. Listen to how your child describes how they feel and match their language. You can always ask more questions to get a further insight into what your child means by the words they use.

Paying attention
Though towards the end of a long day it can be rather challenging to focus attention, it is important to actively listen to your child, even when their story may not seem all that important. At a young age, children will value things that we as adults may not view as a big deal, but showing them you are interested in the small things will encourage them to come to you when something more pressing happens. Turning off the TV, stopping cleaning and taking a moment to sit down with your child will show them you value what they have to say.

Equally, if you need your child to understand something you are saying, it will be much more effective to tell them directly than saying it over your shoulder or from another room. Giving a reason why you are asking them to do something will also help to minimise dispute.