Communication is the ability to connect with others, exchange information, ideas, feelings and create meaning. Through communication, we learn to navigate the world, and find our place in the world. Communication is the means to an end-it is human Children who can communicate well, as listeners and talkers, and are curious to learn about the world around them are children who are prepared to succeed at home, in the community, at school and throughout life.
So, what do parents do to support a child’s early communication skills and basic knowledge acquisition? Below are a few key points for parents and caregivers:
Don’t just talk, but spend time actively listening
- Really pay attention to what your child is saying.
- Look for opportunities to model good listening skills.
- Be flexible and know how to read your child’s cues. Giving your attention to your child will encourage him or her to open up and talk to you.
- Talk about what your child did in school, the weather, plan a trip together, or talk about your day-whatever is of interest to you and your child.
Be available to your child
- Enjoy your meals together. This shows that you always have time for each other. It also promotes a sense of belonging within a family.
- Many things demand our attention, but none is as important as your child.
Ask your children about their day
- Find a comfortable time to talk about your child’s day. You can model this by talking about your day. It establishes a good pattern of open communication between you, and will help maintain that openness when your child reaches adolescence and typically detach and withhold from parents.
- Ask open-ended questions like,” What did you do at school?”, What did you do during recess?”. Questions such as these invite detailed responses more than yes or no answers.
- Try making a meal together. Find out each other’s likes and dislikes, and help your child make sense of things happening around him or her.
Encourage your child
- Children need encouragement to feel good about themselves. If they are confident, they are more likely to try new things.
- Communication requires confidence, and so it’s important to respect your child’s efforts and not make fun of his or her mistakes.
- Modeling works best when trying to teach something new. From a new sport, new song or a new language, there are loads of opportunities to learn new things together!
Cultivate an open, honest relationship with your child
- Let your child ask questions and express his or her thoughts and fears. This teaches your child to talk about things that are bothering him or her.
- Be open about issues that directly involve your child’s frame of mind and emotional well-being.
- If your child is interested in something, show him or her that you are available to help and give guidance and answers, and if you don’t have the answers, you can find them together.
Be mindful of the things that are important to your child
- Talk about your child’s favorite book, favorite character in a book, toys and movies. This offers insight into your child’s desires, fears and dreams. In turn, share your thoughts as well. This will help your child as he or she learns how to socialize, make friends, and communicate with others.
Model communication skills right from the start
- When holding your baby, respond to what he or she does-if she giggles, you giggle; if she smiles, you smile back at her.
- Pitch your voice high and low as you make different facial expressions.
- Put a variety of safe and interesting, colorful things near your baby[a child’s mirror, mobile, rattle]. Describe what your baby is seeing and touching.
- Play, ‘name that thing’; wherever you are, name the items you see around you and your baby.
Encourage imagination, curiosity and problem-solving
- While reading your child’s favorite book, change some of the most important words in the story, in a fun and obvious way, so your child will catch on and provide the original and correct story line. This promotes attention to detail and is also so much fun. Make up a story together, the both of you[or all children together if you have more than one]. That is fun for everyone. Don’t worry about getting silly-quality time!
- Play ‘name that feeling’ in books and on tv, ask your child what a character is feeling, and why feeling that. Also, ask what that character may need to change the emotion.
- Celebrate your child’s learning a new skill, a new word or phrase-all new learning- and approach the process with excitement and curiosity. When reading a book together or telling a story, ask your child to anticipate events and outcomes, and then challenge him or her to find out.
- Learning should be fun and exciting, even though it can be challenging. Promote the ability to face challenges with an ‘I can or I will try’ attitude, and regard mistakes or failures as stepping stones to success- continue to encourage that growth.
Have fun and communicate with your baby, your toddler, your child… from the very start. Every interaction between you is a learning opportunity for you both. You learn about your child as you also teach your child-about you and the world around you-together. Be positive, optimistic, encouraging, because you will influence and encourage an adopted optimistic worldview and positive outlook on life. Help him or help develop an ‘I can’ attitude. Communication is the start of a beautiful relationship and at the same time, builds your child’s readiness for school and the world knowing your love and support is always there beside him or her-even when you aren’t.