School age children
During the early years of school, your home life and family relationships are still the biggest influence on your child’s development. Good family relationships help them feel secure and loved, the perfect situation for them to learn and grow.
Love is what we all want most of the time, often without even realising it. Young children want love even more and, by connecting with them, we show them how much we love them.
School age children’s communication skills can seem to have changed overnight. They understand more about how you feel and can hold a conversation about something outside her usual interests. Spending time talking together improves your bond, builds self-esteem and teaches her to think about the world around her.
How to communicate with your school age children
Your school age children spend six hours a day at school. But when you ask, ‘What did you do at school today’, the answer is often, ‘Nothing’. Rest assured that they did do something. It’s just that your school age children may need your encouragement to talk about their day. They also need to know that you are really listening.
Positive communication isn’t just about saying ‘nice’ things or sharing good news. It’s about being able to talk about all kinds of feelings, even about anger, embarrassment, sadness or fear. It also means really listening when someone wants to tell you that kind of stuff.
- Really tune in to what your children are trying to say. Notice the emotions behind it.
- Make regular time to communicate with them in your own special way. Even two minutes every half hour makes a difference.
- When they come to you, try to drop everything to talk. They may only need your undivided attention for five minutes.
- Look them in the eye. This helps you avoid conflict and tune in to what they might be feeling or thinking so they are less likely to feel exasperated. At their age, some children are uncomfortable making eye contact. If so, you can check that they are listening to you by getting them to repeat what you just said.
- Active listening helps children cope with their young emotions. They tend to get frustrated a lot, especially if they can’t express themselves as well as they would like. When you repeat back to them what you think they are feeling, it helps to relieve some of their tension and makes them feel respected and comforted. It can diffuse many potential temper tantrums. When you have listened to them, ask if they want your advice before jumping in with a solution to their problem.
- Try to let them finish their sentences before interrupting, no matter how meandering they might be.
- Read to them and tell stories. Picture books help children learn about language.
- Always be honest. Children are brighter than many of us think. When we lie to them, we lose their trust.
- Ask open questions to encourage your child to talk more about things.
- Don’t criticise them if they use the wrong words. The idea is to allow them to feel free to express themselves. If they are always being criticised for the way they speak, they may just clam up.
- Try to catch the first seed of a potential conversation. Sometimes a passing comment (‘The teacher said something strange today’) can open up into an important conversation about something that is puzzling or worrying your school age children.
Read more about talking and listening in a positive way
During the first few years of school, children can be preoccupied with learning rules. Playing games with rules help children understand what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
To teach your school age children about rules and values, you can explain why some things are considered right and others wrong. You can talk simply about what is not tolerated in society. Encourage empathy by asking your children to put themselves in someone else’s position. How would they feel then? You could talk to them about your family’s values and why you have them.
Did I just say that?
We all have times when we can’t believe what we just said to our child. Most parents have blurted out something like ‘You’ll never learn!’ or ‘Stop crying now, just stop it!’. Then we wonder how these things come out of our mouths. Often the best way to deal with it is to admit you’re wrong and apologise to make you both feel better.