7 Ways to Communicate Effectively with Children
Being able to interact with children and get an insight into their world is truly magical. However, many opportunities for this get missed due to poor communication. Practitioners need to be aware of what they are saying, how they are saying it and who they are saying it too.
Different ages require different approaches, but there are some reoccurring aspects that should be considered no matter the age of a child. Here are 7 ways any adult can make sure they are getting the most out of their interactions with children:
1. Speak Slowly
But not too slowly! Speak so that each word is definitely heard by the child. Speaking too slowly can lead to losing the attention of young children, and it’s also a bit patronising! Speaking too quickly can cause misinterpretations of what has been said and creates frustration in both children and adults.
2. Speak Clearly
Correct and clear pronunciation not only ensures children know exactly what is being said, but also demonstrates to them how to speak properly. Think about clarity in the context of different situations too. Tone of voice can also change the meaning of a comment, and children are highly attuned to tonality, so be mindful of how you say what you say. Think about the circumstance and what is trying to be communicated. When reading stories, fun, animated voices should be used, but when handling negative behaviour, a firmer tone may be needed to communicate clearly.
3. Be Respectful
Children may be young and lacking in experience, but they are not idiots. They should be spoken to with the same respect that would be given to a senior team member. Children are often underestimated and should be given more credit for what they are really capable of. It also models highly negative behaviour to make children think that you treat those smaller or younger than yourself without due respect.
Children’s responses should be valued and appreciated. Their responses will be as unique as they are, and they have the right to be heard. Responding to a child lets them know they have been heard and their needs are being met.
5. Use Age-appropriate language
Different ages will react to different types of language. While young babies might react to high-pitched cooing, older children respond better to being spoken to like a person. Use appropriate language that they will understand, but also recognise opportunities to teach new words, adapting the approach for different age groups.
It takes children several seconds to hear, digest and respond to verbal communication. They should be given the time to process information and know how to react accordingly. Practitioners need to be patient and understanding.
7. Get Down to Their Level
Crouching down and making eye contact with children allows them to get fully immersed in what someone is saying. It also helps them to develop the skills of how to read body language and facial expressions.