Communication is interactive and must be a two-way process to be effective. It’s important to develop the necessary skills as early as possible. You may be excited for your child to begin reading extensively, writing legibly, and conversing eloquently on their own, but they must first learn foundational skills first.
Developing your child’s communication skills means laying down the groundwork for the skills to build on. Here’s how:
Step 1: Communicating as a family
Learning begins at home, and this certainly holds true for your child’s communication skills development. Talking and discussing everyday matters also helps every member of the family feel more comfortable and connected. Trust is easier to build, meaning that support can be asked for without hesitation.
You’d want your child to feel loved and heard, and communication allows this to happen. It reaches beyond just rhythms and rhymes—it also teaches them how communication connects the entire world around them. Make sure to listen and show interest to what they’re saying, as this encourages them to talk more and understand. Try not to interrupt, acknowledge what they said without trying to “fix” or correct it, and then say back what you heard/as you understand it so they can tell if their message was communicated.
Step 2: Turn to the magic of reading
While everyday conversations are crucial, encouraging them to read actively hones their proficiency. Begin by asking them to read small texts, just enough to help them understand how it works. Starting small may seem like too much work, especially if they’re having trouble reading. However, biting off too much too soon is a sure recipe for shame, low confidence, and damaged self-esteem, so take it slowly!
They’ll eventually develop written language skills as a natural extension of oral/spoken language skills, including vocabulary, comprehension, sound and syllable structure, word level grammar, and sentence structure. Strong oral language skills facilitate confidence and development in written language skills. As they grow through the years, their reading skills will develop and eventually stimulate idea formation and well-articulated expressions.
Step 3: Never underestimate the power of playing and socializing
Play isn’t just for fun, exercise, and entertainment—it’s also a source of learning and interaction. Playing is integral for your child’s holistic development, as it hones valuable skills, such as communication and fostering interpersonal relationships. Developing these skills helps your child communicate clearly and practise social skills.
Fostering interpersonal skills entails better interaction with other people, and it also helps children learn the value of non-verbal cues and empathy. Through play and socialization, your child will learn to listen to others and tell others what they want—a crucial skill that will help them perform better in school and later in life.
Step 4: Know what to do when things get tough
It is important for your child to learn how to independently process upsetting moments. When things get tough, your child will need your support, and they need to feel safe in these situations. They need to learn that you can be trusted and that you’ll understand them. They also need to learn that they can deal with “big feelings” by themselves, without needing an adult. Language is an important way to understand and process emotions.
Communicate calmly and ask your child what’s wrong. It’s also important to hold off your judgment for a while. Taking time to understand them instead of blaming and criticizing your child will be more effective and prevent unnecessary arguments. The teachable moment comes after the feelings have calmed down. Talking to an upset child is a waste of breath! Use your energy to help them calm down instead.
Listen to what they have to say and what they’re feeling, and communicate that you understand those feelings, and that those feelings are valid things to be feeling. Label the feelings you notice (e.g., I can tell you are feeling angry). If you yourself are also upset, take a break yourself. You can explain to them why you’re disappointed or frustrated later. Avoid putting the blame directly on them. Doing so will encourage a supportive and effective communication style that will help them develop into healthy individuals.
As with any skill, communication is developed and refined through practice. You help children become better communicators through patience and support. Starting early is always recommended, but remember to take things slow.
Begin by communicating through daily conversations with the family, and interactive exposure to books. Allow children to play and socialize with others to refine their skills further, and remember to communicate as openly and honestly as possible. By doing so, you help your child build the necessary communication skills for a brighter future.
Your child’s development is crucial, which is why it’s always recommended to seek professional help. Red flags include missing or substituted sounds in words, mixing up the order of sounds in words, incorrectly using grammar, deleting small grammar words in sentences, difficulty pronouncing longer/multi-syllabic words, difficulty getting words out or organizing thoughts, and difficulty comprehending or following directions.
Remember that difficulty with reading or spelling almost always indicates an underlying language disorder, and assessment should be completed immediately!
For more information on our comprehensive programming addressing speech, language, and reading/writing/spelling learning in Calgary, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Speak2Read. We’ll help your child grow—reach out to us today!