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Communicating with and Understanding Your Child

Communicating with your child can sometimes be difficult and frustrating. Children often do not verbally share what they are thinking and feeling, which makes understanding their moods and emotions a challenge. But, there is good news- you know more about what your child is communicating to you than you think!

Your child naturally communicates through play, which gives great insight into how he or she is feeling. Sitting down and playing with your child for twenty or thirty minutes will allow you to learn what interests your child has, what his or her strengths are and what emotions he or she is not able to talk about. (The key to gaining insight from the play is to LET THE CHILD LEAD the play time… he or she decides what you play with and how you play with it). The less directive you are, the more the child’s imagination takes off and the more you will learn!

Your child also communicates through non-verbal cues, such as physical changes (red faces, stomach aches, widened eyes, etc.) and behavioral changes (aggression, clinginess, withdrawal, etc.) Paying attention and taking note of when such changes occur and what triggers them will give you better understanding into your child’s reactions and feelings.

Once you begin to play with your child and/or recognize behavioral patterns in similar situations, you can communicate to your child that you are aware of what he or she is feeling. Although you may feel that you often want to clarify with your child if your assessment is accurate, “If you know enough to ask the question, you know enough to make a statement”.

Here is a practical example. Johnny is making faces and grunting trying to open a box of toys. (An appropriate reflection could be “You are frustrated”). He does get it open and says, “YES!” with a smile.

You may have a tendency or habit of asking “Are you excited?”. But, remembering the rule, you can change that from a question into a statement (“You are excited”). The slightest difference in tone of voice, by going down on the last word rather than up, makes it a statement.

Any question that would typically begin with “Are you____(scared, angry, afraid, happy, etc)______?” can be changed to “You seem­­­__(same adjective)_____” or “That made you ­___(same adjective)____”. By using this technique you will find you know more about how your child feels than you think, even if he or she never tells you a feeling. This also lets your child know you are aware of what is going on with his or her emotions and moods.

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