By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Communication is a vital aspect of children’s development and it may be necessary for parents to teach. Below are techniques for how to teach your child effective communication and a unique method to use when your child is resistant to listening. (This is especially helpful for parents of adolescents.)
It’s never too early or too late to teach your child how to communicate and to provide opportunities for your child to practice. Here are some suggestions:
Young children: Rehearse conversations (for phone or face-to-face). Teach your child how to begin a conversation (more than “Hi Grandma” followed by silence). Be very specific. Teach possible questions, phrases to continue the conversation and multi-word responses. Practice an entire conversation. Have fun.
Elementary age: Ordering pizza? Write down the order (or use picture cues) and role-play the phone conversation.
Elementary / Middle School: While shopping, have the child learn how to request help from a salesperson, purchase the item, discuss return policies, etc.
High School: Encourage your child to talk to the school counselor about scheduling, colleges, jobs, etc. Have your child ask teachers for clarification about grades. Advocate for your child as needed, but encourage them to deal with difficult situations themselves. Practicing at home is helpful.
Help children of all ages to learn how to settle conflicts that arise with siblings, friends, peers, and teachers. Teach them how to express themselves calmly and clearly. Role-play, and practice these conversations with your child.
Keep in mind that some children have significant difficulty with communication, especially those with language processing difficulties, ADHD, learning disabilities, aspergers or autism. These individuals have difficulty understanding body language, vocal tone, idioms and emotions. Anxiety can also impact communication. It is important to explicitly teach, then role-play and practice. For these children:
- Keep instructions clear and simple. Avoid abstract words and ideas.
- They may not apply what they’ve already experienced in one conversation to a new situation, even if it’s similar. Use your child’s prior experiences and teach them the similarities.
- Don’t assume that your child understands. Ask your child, and then explain differently as needed.
- Practice often. Keep these lessons upbeat and playful.
- Remember that your child is not choosing to have communication problems. S/he really doesn’t understand. Don’t shame or ridicule. Praise often.
Communication can be developed at any age, but it’s easiest if you begin when children are younger.
Communication with your older child can be especially difficult. Your child may emotionally or verbally push you away and avoid hearing your message – even when you try to lovingly express it. There is a type of communication when words seem to fail. I have been using this technique, and teaching it to others, for many years. I will describe it so that you can try it in your own relationships. (It can also be used with adult family members or work colleagues with necessary variations.)
Relax into a quiet space (meditation / prayer) and visualize the person in your mind’s eye. See the beautiful being that they are, separate from their fear or anger. Speak from your heart, yet not aloud. Picture the person in your mind seated near you. Open your heart to this person and approach from the most loving space using positive thoughts. Your silent conversation might include: “_______ , I come to you with an open heart and my love for you. I ask that you respond from your heart as well. I want you to know how I feel … Now please share your thoughts.” (Listen within to hear the message.) “Help me to know how I can best support you during this difficult time. I hope that you will continue to listen to your highest self, and experience the world with love, security and peace.”
You will likely feel a reduced tension between you and the individual and thus the healing begins in person. There is a more complete description in the article entitled Soul-to-Soul Communication on my website. I look forward to hearing from you about this aspect of communication, as well as your experiences as you teach your child to communicate more effectively and with greater ease.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, June 2011