10 tips for improving parent-child communication

Talking to your child may seem like a daily routine event, but as we get busy we may not be able to put in the required time and effort into making a deep conversation.  

Whether you have a toddler, a teenager or a late talker, there are some tips towards good communication with kids that are common for all. These points are simple but meaningful in the long run. Your child may at times not respond the way you like or acknowledge your efforts, but it is important to stay consistent and keep trying.

Here are top 10 tips to keep in mind in order to improve the way you communicate with your child:

1. No device zone – Set aside at least 20 minutes in your day to turn off all gadgets and spend quality time with your kids. It shows them that you’re completely focused on the interaction.

2. Observe – Maintain eye contact while talking and notice their body language. They may not verbally say something but you can pick up on non-verbal cues to gauge if they need to talk about something. E.g. “You seem very quiet today, how was school/how was your day?”

3. Positive tone – If you need to give some helpful feedback, start with positive messages. Rather than complaining or scolding about their negative behavior, first appreciate the good work and then follow it up by your point. E.g., “You are usually so prompt about keeping your school work away after you’re done. Could you remember tomorrow please?”

4. Talk about feelings, empathize Most of the time, acknowledgement of their feelings is all your kid needs to start dealing with the problem at hand. Once you’ve voiced their emotions, you have made them aware of what they are feeling, given them permission to feel it and acknowledge it in others. E.g., “I can understand that you’re upset right now. You miss going to the park and meeting your friends. It must be a frustrating feeling isn’t it?”

5. Parallel talk Often younger kids find it tough to get the right words to aptly express themselves. Keep the conversation moving ahead by expanding their sentences.  Sometimes you can even become a ‘mouthpiece’ and just say aloud what they’re doing. E.g., your child may say “Du-du hot”, you can repeat their words in a sentence saying “Yes, your milk is hot?”

6. Talk indirectly – If your child is hesitant to talk directly, find ways to go on a round-about way to address the topic. For example, you can read some books or watch a short movie connected to the issue. After that discuss and ask them what they thought about the protagonist or the moral. It will encourage them to reach the core topic and open up about it.

7. Don’t complete their sentences – While you encourage them to make meaningful sentences, be careful to not complete their sentences for them too often. They might not get in the habit to try it for themselves.

8.  Don’t use baby talk – Baby talk is fine when they are younger but always try and modify your tone as they grow.

9. Replace ‘no’ with a positive sentence – As an alternative to using negations, use the sentences which the child ‘should’ perform instead of shouldn’t. For instance, if your child is jumping on the bed, telling them “No jumping” or “Don’t jump” might make them do it more. Get into a habit of saying, “It sitting time now” or “Let us sit and read now” etc.

10. Read to your child: Books with simple language but a lot of illustrations are great open-ended sources of starting conversations with your kid. It will create excitement and interest in your child. Here are some good books to check out (link to ZOOBOO)

When you consciously work towards developing good communication skills with your child, you are building their language skills. It also helps your child develop skills for communicating with you and other people. It also builds your relationship as they receive the message that you value your child’s thoughts and feelings!

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