Effective Communication with Children Under 12 Years of Age

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As a sole parent, communications with your children take a back seat at times, especially when you are in the midst of doing something that will affect the livelihood of the family. However, communications with children under the age of 12 years is crucial as the children learn the most from their parents during their formative years. As a sole parent, it is important to pay attention to your children and allow them the air time with your full undistracted attention.

Children need to feel loved and understood by their parents, and it is all the more important when you are a sole parent raising children on your own. More often than not, children with sole parents might face certain challenges in schools which are difficult for them to accept. For example, they might get teased about their family nucleus, or perhaps, they need to write an essay titled “my family”.

There are many ways to communicate with your young children effectively, but efforts and time must be put into these ways to make them a success. Here are some ways which you can try:

Give your full attention
When your children indicate that they wish to converse, put aside your newspaper, turn off the TV, or lay aside whatever you are doing and give them your full attention. At the same time, try your best not to answer a telephone call during the time when your children are speaking.

Give your support
Reassure your children that you are supportive by letting the children know that you are interested in what they are saying and that you will help them out when it is necessary for you to step in.

Try to hold conversations in private
When your children wish to talk, you may want to separate them and talk to each child individually. Unless it is meant to be a family session, keeping the conversation between you and each child private will help your child to open up to you more than if you keep the conversation in an open environment.

Do not embarrass your children in front of others
If your children are trying to speak with you in public, do not embarrass them in front of others. Instead, try to find a private corner when you can speak confidentially. This will build trust between you and your children.

Go down to your children’s level
Do not stand when your children are speaking to you. Go down to their level physically and allow them eye contact when they speak with you. This enhances trust and openness between you and the children.

Do not try to talk to your children when you are very angry
When you are angry, walk away from the scene and cool down. Do not attempt to speak with your children while you are angry because you will not be able to control the angry words that will come out from you. Angry words harm your children’s self-esteem and confidence level, so cool down before you speak with your children about the incident.

Be an active listener even when you are tired
Similar to point 1, be attentive to your children even when you are very tired. It is extremely tough to do this, but getting used to being attentive while you are tired is a skill that sole parents need to do. In fact, it is almost inevitable that your children will be talking to you when you are tired every single time.

Be patient with your children’s story
As young children, it is sometimes difficult for them to express themselves clearly the first time. Therefore, be very patient with their story. Try not to interrupt or attempt to fill in their words before they could finish the story. Same time, do not be a wipe-out artist. When your children tell you something that happened in school, do not say things like “I do not care what happened, I just need you to tell me that you are NOT involved in that incident.” If you do, the children will feel insecure and subsequently, might stop involving you in their lives.

Do not question your children aggressively
When your children mentioned something that they have done wrongly, do not start questioning them why they have done it and blame/punish them. Instead, ask them what happened and understand why they have done what they did. Sometimes, you get to see a different side of your children just by asking “what happened?”

Do not put down your children
Allow your children to express themselves. Do not put them down with negative words such as “stupid”, “lazy”, or “dumb”. At the same time, avoid adult talking down methods such as “I am your mother, so do as I say”. Children who receive such negative response will stop speaking their mind to you in future.

Accept your children
No matter what your children did, accept them for who they are and praise them for their ability to communicate. The praises go a long way in encouraging them to speak up again in future. If necessary, you can assist your children in planning some action plans to resolve any issues which they might have brought up to you in the duration of the conversation. Do not try to solve every problem for them without involving them.

Use words of encouragement and praise
You should keep using positive words when speaking to your children, not only when they have done something right. By praising and encouraging them often, you boost your children’s self-esteem, confidence level and trust for you. They will know that you are someone who will be standing by them should they need you to. The bonds that form will help you when your children grow into the teenage years.

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