Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Communicating with Your Child
Nothing builds your child's self-esteem more than when you
truly listen and respond to your youngster's thoughts and
feelings. At the same time, good communication between you
and your child in the early years sets the stage for good
communication between you and your teenager later on.
While parenting communication should never become studied
and self-conscious, consider the following:
LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD WITHOUT INTERRUPTING.
Quiet, attentive listening takes patience and concentration.
Too often it is easy to react quickly and jump to
conclusions before your child has finished speaking. "Stay
with" your child as the problem or story unfolds. If given
the chance to express a point of view fully, your youngster
will then be more likely to talk to you about important
matters later rather than turning to someone else.
ACCEPT YOUR CHILD'S FULL RANGE OF EMOTIONS.
Your child knows what is going on inside. Do not disregard
your youngster's true feelings with such statements as, "Why
are you so disappointed? We'll go another time", or, "Be
brave and stop crying". Instead, acknowledge your child's
feelings, painful though they may be. This communicates
acceptance and understanding.
HEAR WHAT YOUR CHILD IS NOT SAYING.
What your child leaves out of a conversation is often more
important than what is included. Pay attention to your
child's body language--gestures, tone of voice, facial
expression. Read between the lines to grasp the true
meaning of your child's statements. Simple, nonjudgmental
remarks like, "You look upset", or, "You sound unhappy",
will let your child know that you understand and are willing
Remember that your nonverbal messages are powerful, too.
Your attitudes and feelings are communicated quite
accurately to your child through your expressions as well as
HELP YOUR CHILD CLARIFY FEELINGS, IDEAS, AND OPINIONS.
By bouncing back your child's contributions, you help
explore thoughts and feelings further. Examples of
clarifying statements are:
- "Tell me more about it."
- "Can you give me an example?"
- "Wow! Sounds as if you'd really like that!"
- "You got pretty scared when that happened?"
- "You seem embarrassed by . . . "
- "Are you saying you're uncomfortable with . . . "
- "That's really important to you, isn't it?"
- "It really hurt when . . . "
ASSIST YOUR CHILD IN DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THOUGHTS AND
Accepting your child's full range of feelings does not imply
sanctioning a full range of behaviors. Help your child
understand that feelings themselves are not bad or good
whereas behaviors can be acceptable or unacceptable. For
example, point out to your child that it is all right to
feel angry at a brother or sister but not all right to hurt
him or her in any way.
USE "I" STATEMENTS FREQUENTLY.
By communicating in terms of "I," your child is more likely
to understand and thus accept your message. "I" messages
describe the upsetting (or pleasing) behavior and the effect
it has on you. For instance, "I'm upset over the noisy
stereo because I have a headache. Please turn it down and
close the door." A counter-statement such as, "Why do you
always have to make such a racket? Can't you see I have a
headache!," often serves to embarrass or belittle your child
and consequently causes defensiveness.
PROVIDE APPROPRIATE FEEDBACK.
- Comment as soon after an event or observation as
- Do not overload your child by talking too much.
- Use specific examples whenever possible.
- Help your child solve a problem by asking, "What have you
tried? What are the possibilities?," rather than
resolving it yourself.
HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS.
Speaking and listening skills can be developed by
participating in planned communication activities that are
fun for you and your child.
(For specific activities designed to enhance communication
abilities, see Children's Literature: Activities )
ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION THROUGH CREATIVE EXPRESSION.
Children are wonderfully complex, yet generally lack the
ability to talk about their thoughts and feelings in depth.
Art, music, dance, and drama provide outlets for the release
of thoughts and emotions.
DO NOT CORRECT GRAMMATICAL ERRORS WHILE YOUR CHILD IS
Your youngster will likely become unduly self-conscious if
you constantly direct attention to mistakes in delivery.
Instead, use an indirect approach. For example, if your
child says, "I just seen a big dog across the street",
repeat, "You just SAW a big dog? I just SAW one, too. What
did he look like?"
COMMUNICATE THE POSITIVE.
Remember to praise your child when you like or appreciate
something, rather than waiting for misbehavior to