Communication is an important life skill and is especially essential in a child’s relationships with his/her peers as well as his/her overall development. Here are some ways you can encourage communication skills in your children.
Support communication outside the family sphere
In a familiar environment such as their homes, children find themselves able to communicate freely. But parents need to understand the importance of encouraging children to interact outside the family circle and keep a channel of communication open with people outside the immediate family. At the same time, when a child is learning to express him/herself to outsiders confidently, the adults he/she is interacting with should encourage the child, even if the ideas presented are not very mature.
Encourage listening and reading for clearer communication
Children often learn to communicate by listening to people speak to them in their mother tongue or even a ‘new’ language like English. As a result, the more they hear and listen, the better they learn to speak in that particular language. It will help in better communication if parents/teachers encourage them to talk in that language too. Aside from that, elders should let children finish talking and then respond thus setting a good example of ‘listening’
A popular technique to encourage children to listen and learn is by reading out stories to them. Storytelling and reading can expand a child’s vocabulary. At the same time, such activities help them comprehend and enter the world of stories, activating their creativity and imagination. Another crucial aspect to keep in mind is avoiding speaking down to children. Adults frequently believe that children will not understand what they are trying to communicate. But the fact is that the child can pick up the gist of what you want to convey without necessarily having to understand everything you say.
Promote discussions and debates about diverse subjects
As children grow older, they begin to establish their own beliefs and ideas about various subjects. They tend to be more comfortable discussing them rather than coming to a straightforward conclusion about the right and wrong involved. They should be allowed to figure out the rationale for themselves, with adults only assisting them in weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the matter under discussion. Not just that, parents/teachers must also foster a healthy debate to let the child voice his/her views, advantages and disadvantages, as well as consequences before letting them come to their conclusions.
Utilize body language and other forms of non-verbal communication for the child to imitate
A child will readily learn smiling, hugging, frowning, or the tone of voice used by their elders while expressing emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, or fear. Children tend to internalize and model the way adults communicate by utilizing all these forms of non-verbal communication. So, when they want to express their love for their mother, other members of the family, or their friends, they will most likely hug and speak in a tone that openly expresses care and affection. Children also learn to communicate using body language with teachers in school and other peers and elders apart from their family members.
Because they pick up words from those around them, it is vital to use the correct words in the right situation. A child also learns to communicate by listening to people at school, their accents, and pronunciations. The proper use of appropriate tone and words while talking should be emphasized upon to a child from a young age.
Nurture an environment for opinionated conversations
The setting and atmosphere in which we raise our children also have an impact on their communication abilities. An environment where a child cannot freely voice his/her opinions and thoughts may impede his/her confidence in communicating clearly. Similarly, children raised in an atmosphere that nurtures open expression of viewpoints and diverse perspectives leads them to be confident communicators.
Introduce art as a form of communication
Of course, some children are quiet and prefer to express themselves through various forms of art such as dancing, music, painting, sketching, writing, etc. Ensuring that children feel comfortable communicating their feelings through performing arts or other kinds of artwork like poetry, painting, and the like by being introduced to different arts is an essential tool to develop their communication skills. Allowing a child space and time to form their own opinions helps them grow into someone who can communicate articulately. Some more ways of improving your child’s communication are encouraging them to talk about their feelings, what’s on their mind, and involving them in conversations. It can be something as simple as asking, “What do you think about that?” that can go a long way in supporting a child to speak up about their opinions. Adults can also build on what the child is saying or doing by asking relevant questions. Or they can also show interest by saying things like, “Go on…” “Really?” or “Tell me more about…” that can spark the child’s imagination and creative ideas.
Parents/teachers need to listen and respond sensitively to anger, embarrassment, sadness, and fear apart from the nice things and good news. They must gauge the child’s moods and feelings and react in ways that will boost the child’s self-confidence and positively motivate them to do better. Lastly, the adults that the child is surrounded by — parents or grandparents, at home or teachers in school — must be good role models that the child can look up to as they learn how to communicate by watching them. When they talk with the child or others respectfully, they send a powerful message about positive communication to the child.
The author is principal, Jasudben M L School and Bloomingdales Pre-Primary School, Mumbai. She is a veteran educator with several years of experience. A qualified Master of English, she also holds a B. Ed degree, is an AP certified teacher as well as an IGCSE certified teacher. She began her career as an English professor for grades 11 and 12 in Kendriya Vidyalaya, Baroda. After that she came to Mumbai to further pursue her goal of imparting holistic education. Ever since, she has been striving to bring out the importance of character building and overall personality development of the students.