Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Communicating With Your Preschooler

By Margaret Taylor M.E http://www.sixtysecondparent.com

Prime opportunities exist for encouraging open communication with your children, even in small slices of time, such as the time in the car on the way to work and preschool. The way we talk and listen to children greatly influences our relationship with them. Children learn how to express their needs, cope with problems, and respect authority through routine, small conversations with parents.

Here are some tips for starting small conversations that cover big ideas, and begin to shape the values children develop.

A good communicator:

  • Encourages with verbal and non-verbal cues – Children feel more welcome to talk when an adult stoops to their level and initiates conversation with a smile. Use praise and affection.
  • Works as a team – Children need a playbook on how to negotiate new surroundings and people. Coordinate consistency between a parents to help make learning important family values and behavioral expectations easier.
  • Gives full attention - Children are always watching adults. Their observations skills are keen because their verbal skills haven’t taken over yet. Turn off the radio or DVD player, and listen when your child speaks. Give them time to finish a thought, and make eye contact (if you aren’t driving). The timing of their important questions won’t always be convenient. Most experts agree that the most “teachable” moments are spontaneous, casual opportunities. For example, if the preschooler pops the question about where his new baby sister will come from on the drive to school, it is to the advantage of the parent to give full attention to laying the groundwork for future, less embarrassing discussions.
  • Is honest - The easiest answer may be “I don’t know, let’s find out together.” Remember, parents get good grades for being inquirers too. Reminding children that grown-ups don’t know everything and sometimes have to figure it out too gives children key problem-solving skills and permission to make mistakes. Having a sense of humor about our own shortcomings also relieves tension and provides us a great way to laugh with our children.
  • Sets aside alone time to talk - Other important parenting responsibilities often steal away individualized time with and attention to our children. Just as setting aside time each week is important to stay on top of big assignments at work or school, it is equally as important to the parent-child relationship.
  • Encourages and respects children’s opinions/feelings - Try to remember that children perceive problems and conflicts differently. They do not have the years of experience that we have and more importantly, they lack the verbal skills to express emotions. Encourage and model for your child how to express feelings; for example, “I need to make sure I understand. You’re sad/mad because . . . “ Or, “You seem really upset. Did something happen at school/daycare today that did not go your way?” Repeating, identifying emotions, and clarifying questions invite children to speak up, and to consider the impact of their words and feelings on others.
By Margaret Taylor M.Ed.

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