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12 Ways To Teach Kids Effective Communication Skills

Learning to communicate with your child—and teaching your child effective communication skills—is a vital part of helping them grow up and move into communicating with the rest of the world. Everything from the friends they choose to the arguments they get involved in to being a good listener hinges on highly effective communication skills. Parents lay the foundation for these skills as early as their child’s development in the womb!

It seems like a monumental task, but don’t worry: you have their whole lifetime to work on it. That being said, developing effective communication skills can start when your children are babies. You can set the framework for the rest of their lives as early as preschool and early grade school. Your child’s initial communication skills depend on you.

Why Are Communication Skills Important in Child Development?

The development of effective communication skills is truly a lifelong process, one that begins at birth. Humans communicate in a variety of ways, such as listening, speaking, gesturing, reading, writing, and body language. The foundation for all of these ways to communicate begins with a child’s parents: first, through their child’s development in utero and then as infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults. 

Additionally, some children may have physical or cognitive difficulties communicating, and it is essential that parents work with them to overcome these impediments/diagnoses and maintain their child’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Many forms of assistive technologies have been developed to help children learn effective communication; these can also be used by children who struggle in certain areas of communication, but don’t have an impediment or diagnosis.  

Ultimately, it’s important that your child can represent themselves and communicate their needs and desires effectively, first at home and then in the community and the world at large.

What are the 5 types of Communication for Kids?

The five types of communication for kids are as follows:

– Verbal: this includes all communication using spoken words, or unspoken words in sign language.

– Nonverbal: the tone of your voice, facial expressions, body language, gestures, hand movements, and eye contact are just as vital to communication as verbal expression. What you say matters, but the way you say it is just as important.

– Written: this means anything put in writing, including skywriting, letters, email, notes, texts, billboards: basically, anything that is read in order to be understood.

– Visual: the delivery of information by using graphics or visual aids, such as diagrams, physical models, drawings, illustrations, and the like. Anything that you might use to communicate that doesn’t involve words, or is used to accompany words, is considered visual communication.

– Listening: all great communicators are masters of the art of listening. Cultivating a practice of active listening is crucial to being a good listener.

How Do You Teach Basic Communication Skills?

In babies, the most important guidelines are governed by the three Rs: recognize their communication signals, read (interpret) them appropriately, and respond to those signals as quickly as possible. Most parents intuitively implement the three Rs. 

In older children, there are a number of helpful strategies to try. These include:

– Teach your child empathy. This will give them a sense of paying attention to what the other person is saying, thinking, and feeling. Your child will become a better listener and speak more respectfully.

– Teach your child conversation skills. Role-playing is particularly helpful here, with you playing the other person your child is speaking with and then switching roles. Role-playing can also make it more fun and interesting for your child, and is a great way to work through difficult talks with friends or teachers.

– Teach respectful vocabulary. This can begin at a very early age. Teach your child that being “cold” (passive), or “hot” (blowing up) are feelings to stay away from in conversation, and that being “cool” is the best solution. Telling someone “I disagree” is always going to be better than saying, “You’re stupid.”

– Ask your child’s opinion. Giving your child a chance to reflect on their feelings involves them more fully in the conversation and teaches them to consider what they’re discussing.

– Use catch to teach your child conversational flow. Head out into the yard or to a local park and toss a ball back and forth, but the person throwing it first has to ask a question, and the person returning it must answer and pose their own question. This mimics the back-and-forth flow of conversation and helps your child learn how to be attentive to it.

– Read with your child. It doesn’t really matter what you read, as long as you do it together. As your child gets older, have them supply the word in a sentence you’re reading through here and there or switch back and forth with them for a few pages apiece.

– Make conversations fun. Ask thought-provoking questions that are humorous like “What was the silliest thing that happened in school today?” and then tell them the silliest part of your day. Make conversation something they want to participate in.

– Have your child describe the day in as much detail as possible. Demonstrate active listening and ask them questions about parts of their day that they seem particularly interested in telling.

– Use “noticing” statements instead of just giving praise. When they have completed a chore, say, “I noticed you cleaned your room. Great job!” instead of just “Good job!”

– Don’t bribe them. Your child needs to learn how to communicate as a basic part of life, not because they think there is going to be a treat whenever they demonstrate an effective skill. 

– Encourage active and reflective listening. In active listening, your child shows that they are engaged in the conversation and may have questions for the speaker. In reflective listening, you act as a mirror for your child by repeating what they state using different words. If they say, “I had a tummy ache this morning,” you could say, “oh no, did your stomach hurt earlier?” This way, your child can express their emotions without feeling like they’re being judged.

– Talk regularly with your child. Encouraging your child to be involved in the conversation as much as possible will help boost their confidence and self-esteem. You can also use this as a platform for introducing new words and concepts to your child.

How To Support Your Child’s Communication Skills

There are numerous ways to support your child’s communication skills development. Here are a few:

– Talk with and listen to your child. The natural flow of conversation is extremely important.

– Help your child create a “feelings” vocabulary so that they have plenty of words that they can use to express themselves when emotions are running high or low.

– Respect and recognize your child’s feelings.

– Help build their language skills with list-making, like asking them to name all of the food a very hungry caterpillar wants to eat.

– Teach your child about non-verbal communication.

– Encourage pretend play: this helps your child open up and express themselves more freely.

– Be a good role model. Demonstrate clear and effective communication skills so that they have a good framework for their own.

What to Do if Your Child Is Unable to Communicate Effectively

There are multiple barriers to effective communication skills, and chances are your child may run into one or a few. Practice patience with your child and work with them to overcome their challenges. Many of the ideas and practices listed above may help your child overcome minor barriers to effective communication.

Of course, there may be physical or cognitive barriers present, too. If this is the case, taking your child to their pediatrician for a medical diagnosis is the first step in helping them resolve their struggles. Therapy and technology go hand in hand in helping treat communication disorders or disabilities. Some things you might consider otherwise:

– Read books together

– Describe the environment around you often

– Use a diverse array of words to describe things so that your child knows that many words can be used to describe different things

– Introduce your child to others with similar limitations

– Set milestones together and celebrate them!

Build Your Child’s Communication Skills Boundlessly

Your child is counting on you for not only their first introduction to the vast world of communication: they will count on you to continue helping them improve their skills for the rest of their lives!

The opportunities to help your child amass practical communication skills are nearly boundless, and you know your child better than anyone else. Incorporate their favorite games, puzzles, or TV shows to help them increase their vocabulary. Have frequent, fun conversations with them so that they look forward to the chance to converse with you and others. Help them understand the remarkable world they’re entering with their newfound communication skills and continue to nurture those skills now and for the rest of your life!

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