Teaching Children Good Communication Skills for the Future
With more children spending their time watching television, playing video games and on the computer, and more families too busy to actively engage their children in meaningful conversation, it's more important than ever for parents to foster good communication skills in kids while they're still young. Why - because the ability to effectively communicate directly affects a person's social abilities, which translates into the ability to get by in the world. Children form their identity through communication. When they communicate, they are recognized. Parents play the most important role in what kind of effective communication skills their kids develop because of the deep ties to family and the amount of time spent with each other...
Developmentally speaking, children learn the skill of communication very early on by listening and observing. Just in their first year they can decipher all of the speech sounds in natural language. At three months, they're conversing through sounds and facial expressions. At one year, many children have learned to speak and can use simple phrases. By fours years old, children can exchange information and story-tell. The process of learning to communicate is natural if the child is exposed to social interaction, but parents can still facilitate better communication skills with these tips:
Communication is a two-way street, and the person not talking must choose the direction of listening. In order for children to learn good communication skills, they have to learn that when one person is talking, the other is listening. Children also easily pick up on whether you're truly listening to them, so keep eye contact and reply to what they say. It's also important to reassure children that what they say is valued so that they're comfortable chatting with you. Try to simply listen to their ideas instead of correcting them or criticizing them.
What to Talk About
When your child is younger, you'll find that your conversations are varied because they are trying to figure out the world around them. Engaging them now can help pave the way for strong and voluntary communication as they get older. Follow these tips:
Give your child plenty of resources like books to pique their interest in conversation and take turns reading out loud to each other.
Encourage talking. When children think others see them as important, they'll be more willing to talk. Sharing your thoughts with your child gets them involved. For example, if you're repainting your home, ask your child which color they like best (preferably out of a set number of color choices, so you don't get stuck with a neon pink house).
Avoid asking questions that will generate a yes or no response. If they give these answers, ask them to elaborate.
Use the repeat technique: To make sure you understand what your child was trying to communicate and they understand what you said, repeat the message back in simpler terms and get confirmation. By using this technique with restating the message in your own words, you're also teaching children a wider vocabulary, and in turn, they learn other ways to convey their message
Learn Talking Times
Children usually favor a time they like to talk or are most open to talking. Engage them in conversation as often as possible during these times to get the most out of a meaningful conversation. It may be in the car, in the morning or perhaps after they get home from school. Don't allow the television or computer to compete with a conversation you're having with your children either.
Watch for Nonverbal Messages
Nonverbal communication through body language, tone of voice and facial expressions are just as important as verbal communication, so make sure you're responding to your child's nonverbal messages as well and make sure they understand the importance of it, too.
Encourage Acceptance and Creativity
Not everyone communicates by always talking (the deaf or autistic) or in the same language that is used in the home. Teach your child that just because someone communicates differently, it doesn't invalidate what they are talking about. You can also introduce your child to a different language by enrolling them in classes to learn to speak French, sign language or anything else. Also, encourage keeping journals, diaries and self-expression through various forms of art. Allow your children to play make believe or role-play to identify emotions and stimulate creativity. The ability to express ourselves – our needs, wants, feelings and ideas – is what defines the concept of communication, and it is what makes us human. And while the process of communication starts very early – reading facial expressions, making eye contact, experimenting with oral sounds and language, and learning to take turns – the more you engage your child and teach by example early on, the better communicator your child will grow up to be.