Talking to Your Kidz as They Grow Up
How to Talk to Your Kids to Make Sure They’re Okay
Savannah, we know. We get it. Being a parent is hard! And despite the fact that you’re doing all the heavy lifting for your little ones, it’s good to remember that being a kid can be hard, too. That’s why we’re gonna take some time today to talk about how to talk to your kidz. The better you communicate with your kidz, the better equipped they’ll be to communicate throughout their life. And the better chance they’ll have of succeeding.
So let’s get started!
Communicate with Kidz Where They’re At
The first thing to remember is that your kidz are at a different stage of development than you are. You have to remember this as you talk to your kids. Try to remember to communicate to them on their level. This definitely does NOT mean talking down to them. But understand where they are in their universe. As children age, they’re better able to understand others’ perspectives. (Well, most of the time – there are many adults who struggle with empathy for sure – you know who I mean!)
But at this stage in their development, can they mentally imagine putting themselves in other people’s places? Can they understand other perspectives? Some kidz figure these things out quicker than others. And that’s okay! Our job as parents is to be patient. When we talk to our kidz, we talk to them in a way they can understand. Of course, it’s okay to be instructive, but when you talk to your kids don’t make them feel less than they are – they’re just kidz!
When children are very young, they see the world as “I’m doing something” or “something is being done to me.” So remember that when you talk to your kids. And teaching empathy is a great way to bring up a well-adjusted child! So teaching those lessons as they get older becomes more and more helpful to their social development.
Also, sometimes it’s very helpful not just to talk to your kids at their level developmentally – sometimes it’s really helpful to get on their level. Physically. See eye to eye with them, literally!
We can forget as adults how loud and large we can be. To communicate best with your child, try to put yourself at their same height, so you’re not glaring down at them. If your kidz have a tendency of being too loud, speak more quietly with them. Demonstrate the good behavior you seek through your own action. Model the behavior you want to see when you talk to your kids.
Active Active Listening
It’s very tempting to try to get a download from a kid on their way back from school while in the car. And it’s great to show you care, so set expectations to have a real conversation. But there are a couple of reasons talking in the car may not be the best place to talk to your kids.
1. They’ve just had a long day
They may still be processing the day. They’ve just come from a highly active, social environment. Maybe they need a minute to recharge their social batteries before they start telling you everything that happened.
2. You can’t actively listen effectively
When you’re driving, you’re compromised – or – at least, you should be! You need to focus on the road and all the dangers coming at you. So you’re not in a position to actively engage fully with your kid while you’re driving. You may be able to get the conversation started, but if you do, guide it to finish it when you’re home and can be more focused and attentive.
One incredibly important piece of communication is listening. Most people don’t actively listen. They hear what they want to hear or what they expect to hear and check out. When you actively engage in communication with your children, set aside your preconceptions and listen to what they’re telling you. Watch their body language, and crucially, remember that they’re watching – and learning – from yours.
Children can tell when you’re listening and when you’re not. Even when they start rambling (and children do – we know!) there are loving and attentive ways to address their communication.
So make every time and every place you can a time and a place to communicate with your children – just as you wish people would communicate with you. And if you can’t do it all the time, ensure your children feel heard and loved by making time when you can be fully engaged in their conversation. It’s hard, but it’s such a valuable thing – for them and you!
Model Patience and Empathy
It’s incredibly important to the development of your children that you take time to communicate effectively. And I mean both talking and listening. When you talk to your kids, you have to speak effectively and to do that you have to listen effectively. If you feel yourself losing patience, take a step back, breathe, and remember to set the example. Mirroring is a great way to communicate, but you don’t want to mirror behavior from your children that you don’t want to see. When you mirror behavior nobody wants, children may take it as a cue that that behavior is okay.
Depending on where they are in their development, they may not understand what you’re trying to show them, what you’re trying to make them feel. Often, you and your kidz both get more from you stepping back, taking a breath, and speaking more quietly and slowly. Let them finish their sentences, even if it takes a while.
Ask Questions and Talk about Feelings and Reactions
Little kidz are learning how to feel and react from you. They see how you feel and you react and they do the same. So talk to your kids about your feelings often. If you lose your temper – it’s okay – we all do. Take a breather, come back, and explain what happened. Talk through it and explain that you’re trying hard not to do that. Modeling this kind of conversation teaches your children to communicate with others and understand themselves more effectively.
When you experience loss, oh boy, this is a tough one. Take time to internally verbalize what’s going on to yourself so when your kidz ask you, you can explain as best you can. Even if they’re impatient, it’s okay to take a moment to compose yourself. Sometimes the best communication doesn’t involve constant speaking. Actions can be loud, too. You will have to talk to your kids during loss, but it’s only part of the equation.
Never forget that as difficult as loss is for you, it’s much harder and more confusing for them. They’ve never experienced this before, and you have. Take your time, be patient with yourself. Then be patient with your children and help them by talking to them through tough times.
Positive Reinforcement of Things Children Control
Another aspect of communicating with children that adults often forget is that there doesn’t need to be a reward or punishment for things outside the childs’ control. Looking so “pretty” or “handsome” when they have done nothing to make themselves that way gives children a feeling of entitlement. Now, when they have taken time to look nice for an event, a little reinforcement doesn’t hurt – especially if they feel uncomfortable!
There are times and places to compliment kids – to reinforce good behavior – and times not to. Be sure to think about these things as you talk to your kids, and also as you listen to what others say to them, so you can help them interpret.
Similarly, when they’re not to blame for a situation, ensure they don’t feel responsible for a negative outcome. Rather, help them understand what they can do proactively to avoid the situation in the future. Could they have talked to somebody different? Could they have perhaps reminded the responsible party? And don’t forget: even if it is their job to remind the responsible party, they’re just kidz! It’s ultimately the responsible adult’s responsibility to help them stay out of trouble.
Well, there are some tips for you folks… some ideas about how to talk to children. It’s hard! But it’s so incredibly important.
Helping children learn to communicate effectively will help them through their entire life! Being able to identify and cope with emotions and reactions helps them address life and others in a more effective way. And those skills that they learn early will serve them (or not) their whole lives. Children (all of us kidz, really) need consistent repetition and reinforcement of good behavior to do better and be better. We can all work together to make your kidz healthy in many wayz!