Finding ways to help your child communicate better will make parenting easier and allow you to negotiate any tricky times your child faces. As a parent, you want to be able to talk calmly with them about any issues and for them to be able to communicate concerns they have. Even when life is running smoothly, effective communication is still good to ensure you keep up-to-date with what your child is doing at their Australian international school.
There can be many problems with communication. In younger children, it may be they simply do not have the vocabulary or the conversational skills. For the majority of children, this will improve over time, but if it persists, talk with your child’s teacher as to what further support can be given. Older children, and teenagers in particular, can be notorious for not wanting to talk with their parents, but as they become more independent and start to deal with more adult issues, good parent-child communication becomes more important than ever.
Reading is a great way to build up vocabulary and improve the style of conversation. Talking about the stories can also make you and your child more comfortable with discussing a wide range of topics which will make it far easier for you both if you do need to discuss anything of a more serious nature.
Avoid correction and criticism
No one wants to have a conversation when they are feeling belittled or as if they can do nothing right. Making mistakes in language is common as children develop their skills, but rather than correct their mistakes, instead model language correctly. For example, if a child proudly tells you about the model they ‘maked’, rather than correct them, simply model the correction yourself, such as replying “You’ve made a rocket? Can I see it?” This keeps the focus on their achievement and the conversation they want to have, while still modelling good language.
While discussions can get lively and your child will form their own opinions, try not to dismiss these, even if you do not agree. Criticism and judgement are certain ways to halt the conversation. On the other hand, an exchange of views, where you each respect the other’s point of view even if you do not share it, is a healthy way to develop communication skills which will stand them in good stead for later life.
Asking the right questions
Questions are a good way to draw out a child’s conversation. Try to keep them open ended so your child has to reply with more than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, be wary of making them too general. Questions such as ‘What did you do at school today’ usually simply get the answer ‘nothing’!
Give your full attention
Good communication is about listening as well as talking, so make sure your child has times of enjoying your full attention. In our busy lives, when you may be juggling work, family commitments, household and social engagements, there may well be 50 different thoughts in your head at once, making it hard to give undivided attention to one thing. However, when that one thing is your child, it is necessary to focus on them!
If the conversation is a serious one, sit with them so you are at their level, maintaining eye contact and listen without interrupting. For general communication, a more casual atmosphere is better. Children do not need an interrogation on their day but are instead likely to impart bits of information at other times such as over a meal or at bed time. Building in regular time for conversation, will make it a habit, allowing conversation to flow naturally.
As a parent you are well placed to model good communication skills. When talking to your child, keep your responses natural and genuine. There is no need to exaggerate your responses. You should also talk about yourself, demonstrating to your child how communication goes both ways and to encourage the sharing of information.
Comparing experiences can provide fascinating insights for both parents and children. As technology has changed our world, it is likely your own childhood was very different to your child’s. For children at international schools in Singapore, there may also be significant cultural differences. Be sensitive to these differences, particularly when offering advice.
At AIS, we are keen to promote good communication skills and are always impressed by the breadth of conversation our students achieve. If parents have concerns about their child’s communication skills, we are always happy to help.