Ask, Answer & Listen to Encourage Your Child's Communication with You
Communicating effectively with your children involves all three of these. Don’t wait for children to bring a subject up to you. Parents often believe that if their children aren’t talking about something it means they aren’t thinking about it or don’t have any questions. It would be great if children told us everything, but we know they don’t. Ask your children questions. Start conversations, don’t wait for them to start.
As part of daily conversations ask your children about their experiences, their feelings and various types of touches using questions or statements such as:
Tell me something you feel proud of yourself for today.
Was there anything you felt embarrassed or sad about today?
Was there anything you felt scared or angry about today?
What was the best part of your day?
What was the worst thing that happened today?
Did you get any okay touches today?
Did you get any not okay touches today?
When children are telling you about their experiences, be sure to ask them how they felt. The more we talk with our children about everyday experiences, both positive and negative, the more likely they will be able to tell us about a problem.
When we combine a good communication pattern between parents and children with good education about okay/not okay touches and personal safety skills we are minimizing our children’s risk of victimization.
Encourage your children to ask you questions by answering the questions they ask. Asking questions is a very good thing and you want to encourage children to continue asking questions. Whenever possible, answer the questions as honestly and accurately as possible based upon your comfort level and the child’s age. If you are uncertain how to answer a question, simply tell the child something like “You know, that’s a really good question. I’ll have to think about how to answer it (or get more information about that) and get back to you.” Then be sure to think about the question or get the information and get back to the child. This will help the child to trust you and to continue asking questions when they come up, even if they are difficult or embarrassing to ask, thereby improving communication and enhancing a child’s ability to tell about a problem.
Listen in a way that encourages your children to talk with you. Encourage children to express thoughts and feelings by using the following "active listening skills."
Make good eye contact and listen carefully when children are expressing themselves appropriately.
Repeat, paraphrase or summarize children’s remarks to help them feel heard and understood.
Praise the appropriate expression of feelings (i.e. "I'm so glad you told me how you are feeling!!!").
Offer simple encouraging remarks (i.e. tell me more about that) and ask open-ended questions (i.e. how did you feel when that happened?)
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