Talking to Preschoolers
From the time a child a born, that child needs to be spoken to. Eye contact is made and bonding happens. In addition, that is the beginning of teaching the child to communicate.
The experts have the following to say about communicating with preschoolers:
- Give the preschooler your full attention whenever possible. Even a quick, but focused, connection may fill the child’s need for communication.
- Be aware of your tone: Because preschoolers are new to sentence making, they will usually have a heightened awareness of your tone and body language.
- Reflect the child’s unspoken emotions. This helps put your child’s feelings into words. If she didn’t get a turn on the slide, you could acknowledge that by saying something like “You wanted to slide next, didn’t you?” This help put things in place for your child.
- Enlist the child’s help in figuring out a problem: Ask relevant questions like “did something in that story scare you?” If you get no reply, make a follow up comment.
- Help the preschoolers develop emotional awareness. Even if there is misbehavior, you can talk about it together. Most preschoolers can understand a sentence which goes “Sometimes I get cross too. It helps if I quietly take a few deep breaths.”
- Offer limited choices. Preschoolers gain an appropriate sense of control by making their own decisions.
- Don’t end your sentences with ‘OK?” unless you are ready for the child to say “No!” This can easily lead to a power struggle.
- Grant a preschoolers wish in fantasy: Let’s say the child expresses sadness/anger that a toy has to be shared. Discuss it with the child along the lines of “Would you like it if you had the toy all to yourself? What would you do with it?” By expressing a wish to talk it through, even if it can’t be granted, a child begins to calm down.
- Create safe opportunities for preschoolers to express their BIG feelings. For example, when your child is extremely angry, instead of saying “stop shouting”, tell the child to go into the bathroom and scream as loud as it can for one minute.
- Don’t over-explain. Simple explanations are more effective than long discussions. If the preschooler is having a tantrum, hold him/her close – or just stay nearby – and this may mean more than any words can.
Adapted from the Raising Children Network)