Learning how to effectively communicate, and how to pick up on cues, is key to strengthening relationships. This is especially relevant when it comes to connecting with your child.
Regardless of your child’s conditions, personality, idiosyncrasies, or tendencies, they will always have an urge to connect.
The earlier you can “learn” your child, interpreting not just their spoken words but unspoken communication or the meaning behind their words, the better you’ll be able to support them.
When it comes to interpersonal communication, there are four basic categories:
Let’s talk through each of those, connecting them back to how you improve interactions with your child.
At Bloom, we are passionate about the idea that parents can engage more meaningfully with their children, regardless of the challenges they face. Even if your child is in a tough developmental stage, grappling with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, or any other situation, you can grow together. Here, we help children (and families) bloom. Learn more about membership.
1. Verbal Skills
Verbal skills include communication through speech. Speech is the most common form of
communication used to build and maintain relationships. This is the primary way that humans exchange ideas, from the very earliest “mama!” of a toddler to the spirited exchange we have with our teens.
From tongue ties and other physical issues to selective mutism or a cognitive lag, kids run the gamut in their ability to verbally express themselves. Verbal skills are important to proactively cultivate in your child, and this starts with you.
One famous study conducted on a group of children over the course of many years identified a “30 million word gap.” Between families in different socio-economic brackets, there was as much as a 30 million word gap in how much language a child heard in their earlier years. This included conversation, read-alouds, narrating everyday events, and more.
Researchers followed children in this study into elementary and middle school, tracking achievements like academic performance, sociability, and more. Their findings were that children who were on the receiving end of verbal communication performed better in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that you need to start charts and track your word usage per day per kid. It does mean that you can thoughtfully consider if you are actively communicating verbally to your child (even if they don’t respond). The earliest responses you get will be mimicry, but these will evolve into dialogue.
Verbal skills are important for long-term success on any terms, and teaching them to your children is as easy as initiating communication.
2. Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication has to do with body language. Our body language can speak
volumes. It’s easy to think that our kids don’t notice a heavy sigh, sloped shoulders, clenched fists, downturned mouths, furrowed brows; but they do. Some of our children have further to go with cultivating social skills, but learning to pick up on nonverbal communication is a huge life skill. Even those that don’t get subtleties of non verbal communication understand the aura / vibe /energy.
In your family, develop a repertoire of shared understanding about what facial expressions mean. If your child has autism spectrum disorder, aspergers, or a similar diagnosis, you may already work on this in therapy. Make it a game: use one of the many tools, like flashcard sets or children’s books to support these learnings.
Once a lexicon is established, point out body language and what you think it means. This ongoing, open conversation will promote all kinds of life lessons, not to mention giving your family something to verbally communicate about.
3. Listening Skills
A chief complaint among parents is, “my children don’t listen.” A chief complaint among children — although they don’t put it so plainly — is that they don’t feel heard. These are two sides of the same coin and point to an important dynamic in the home: do you listen to one another?
This is indicated by the actual pause in a conversation, by not interrupting, by waiting and taking turns to speak. It’s also reinforced by body language: are you turned, face-forward, making eye contact when your child speaks?
There are a few years in which you are your child’s world, and their affections and attentions are turned toward you in a way they won’t be during adolescence. Earning their respect, by showing the respect of good listening skills, is a good way to lay the groundwork of a healthy relationship.
4. Written Skills
Many of the families in the Bloom community have children with out-of-the-box personalities, challenges, conditions, and more. For some children, this translates into physical limitations that include delays in fine motor skill development. We’re leading with that idea because it can be hard, as a parent, to give up on writing skills if the physicality of writing is a giant task for your child.
We would encourage you to persevere. Written skills aren’t just pen to paper: they include any form of expressing yourself in writing, which will be essential to success in society. People write more than ever, using text messages, social media direct messages, emails, you name it. The ability to convey ideas clearly, concisely, and succinctly is a vital one.
Why Do Communication Skills Matter?
Good communication skills, all four kinds, enable you to effectively share information with other people. And sharing is the heart of life: your thoughts, your ideas, your feelings, your interpretation of situations — these are the foundational components of relationship-building.
As you raise your children, teaching them the importance of their inner lives and outward connections, consider how you might foster an environment where these skills are developed.
Do you often feel out of your depth, or simply overwhelmed by the many things you’re told to teach your children?
Our goal is not to add another “to do” item to your list. Rather, we are here to lessen the burden.
For answers, guidance, insights, and real world strategies you can use to learn and love your child, we invite you to Bloom membership. Learn more about it here.