How to Communicate with Your Child

You and your child communicate with each other in many different ways, depending on your child’s age and stage of development. As a baby, your child’s main form of communication is through body language, in which she uses smiles, tears, howls, and leg and arm move­ments to convey her emotions. You also use body language to communicate with your baby, as well as spoken language. The use of spoken language to communicate with each other increases in importance the older your child becomes.

Poor communication between parent and child can be a source of distress and unhappiness at home for all concerned. That’s why it is vital to have effective and clear communication with your child. You may find the following suggestions helpful:

  • Talk to your child at an age-appropriate level. There is no point, for instance, in telling an eighteen-month-old toddler that she must consider the feelings of others before snatching their toys—she won’t grasp what you’re saying. Likewise, a five-year-old child doesn’t want to be spoken to as though she is a baby. Match your communication to your child’s level of age, ability, and understanding.
  • • Use actions as well, where appropriate. By all means explain to a young child that you disapprove of the way she threw the jigsaw puzzle across the room in temper; but reinforce these words with action, perhaps by taking away the game until she calms down. Your young child will understand more clearly the message you are communicating when it is backed up by your behavior.
  • Make time to talk to your child. Both you and your child have your own busy lives, and before you know it, you can find yourself spending more time taking your child from one place to the next than actually sitting beside her, commu­nicating. Try to make at least a few minutes every day when you and your child chat to each other—she’ll feel special, and this time provides you both with an opportunity to voice your feelings.
  • Criticize your child’s behavior, not your child. Being a parent can be very trying, especially with an uncooperative, demanding child who seems to be in trouble constantly. Of course, you have to discourage behavior of which you dis­approve, but try to criticize your child’s behavior (by say­ing, “Hitting other children is naughty”) and not her (“You are naughty”). Your child needs to feel loved no matter what she does.
  • Pay games together. Play is a child’s natural form of commu­nication and your child will love those moments when you play games with her, share a toy with her, or even read her a story. In these situations, your child will feel at ease and is more likely to reveal her emotions to you than at any other time. So join in with your child’s play (though make sure you don’t actually take over).
  • Respect your child. The fact that your child is only three years old and has her whole life ahead of her does not reduce the significance of her experiences. Discovering that her favorite toy is broken will hardly make a headline in the local newspaper, but it might be a major catastrophe for your child. Treat her seriously and respect what she says to you even though it may seem trivial.

No matter what age your child, she also,communicates through her behavior. Sometimes this is obvious (such as when she turns her back on you when she is in a huff or smiles when she is happy). But sometimes this communication can be more subtle (she might appear lethargic after fighting with her friend; or she might act aggressively because she is jealous of her younger sibling) and can be difficult to interpret. When you see your child behave in an uncharacteristic fashion, ask yourself what the cause of that behavior might be and what message she unconsciously might be conveying to you.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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