Communication Skills

dinnertableI recently read a parenting magazine that shared this fact: According to a survey of 35,000 children completed by the National Literacy Trust, children who talk to their parents or others over meal times are better communicators than those who don’t.  I love it when I see my children growing in their communication and conversation skills and it can be as simple as chatting over a meal.

When children are young, it’s great practice for them to answer questions about their day and what they did.  We love to ask our 3-year-old questions about his day and are often pretend we are shocked when he thinks that he visited the zoo, the museum and outerspace all in one day. We can then help him clarify and think back to what really happened during the day and help him verbalize what events occurred. With our older children, we love to ask questions about events at recess or how art class went. Specific detailed questions about events help a child develop a better, more detailed answer than a simple “How was your day?” Which often results in a boring “Fine.” or “Okay.”.

If questions about the day-to-day start to get too routine, families can change things up with some hypothetical questions:

“What would you do if you had $1000?”

“What is the best dream that you remember having?”

“Where would your favorite vacation be?”

“What quality do you like most in a friend?”

As children grow older, I’ve noticed one of the best conversation skills they can develop is the ability to ask questions and show interest in another person’s life and day-to-day activities. When I chat with my older nieces and nephews, I love watching them grow in their communication skills and am always impressed when they take the time to ask me about how I’m doing.  This is not a skill that just naturally happens. We as parents can help cultivate this skill over dinner conversations or during rides in the car.  As you share dinner or drive to a sports event, ask your children about their day and encourage them to ask the same. I’ve heard people describe  conversations to their kids as a game of tennis. One person hits the ball to the other person and that person then hits the ball back by answering the question and then adding something of their own.  The conversation/tennis game works best when both sides are participating.

Communication skills can develop in so many different areas. From learning how to think through events of the day and pick out what they want to share, to daydreaming about hypothetical questions, to learning how to truly participate in a two-sided conversation, there are so many different areas to work on. Helping children develop their communication skills with both adults and their peers is a skill that will continue to help them throughout their lives.

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