A communication friendly environment builds on natural ways to support a child’s development helping children to have conversations that are natural, relaxed and enjoyable.
Why is it necessary?
One of the most useful things you can do as a parent is to ensure that your child lives and learns in a communication friendly environment. Doing so helps children to understand the things being said to them and helps parents to understand their child. What’s the result? A child’s frustrations, anxieties and challenging behaviours are reduced and it supports their attention and listening skills.
In this article I will outline three ways you can easily create a communication friendly environment in your home.
1. Make use of objects and activities that encourage communication
There’s no need to go out and buy the right toys or activities to help encourage communication. Making use of things that are readily available is a great way to build a communication friendly environment.
For example, you could play the ‘Love/Hate Game’. Using a range of toys, objects or food, ask your child if they love or hate the object. If your child loves the item they should stand close to it. If they hate it they should stand far away from it. You should also be involved in the game. Next, ask your child to explain why they stood close or far away. Exchange points of view with them, “I love the carrot because it fills me up”. Point out the similarities in your viewpoints, “You and I both like carrots because…”
2. Conversation habits of parents
Have you ever found it easier to communicate in some situations than it is in others? As adults we all experience this. Who we’re talking to, what we’re talking about, our mood, and the noise level are all factors that determine our level of conversation. These factors are just as important for children.
As adults, there are certain conversation habits that put us off communicating with some people such as:
- Not recognising when you have something important to say
- Ignoring feelings or being overly dismissive
- Only half listening
- Talking about things that only involve them
- Not finishing sentences
Just as we find these habits off putting, so do our children. It’s important to reflect on our own conversation habits and how we come across. Parents are one of the biggest parts of a child’s environment.
3. Body language
While our words are important our non-verbal communication is just as, if not more important in communication. After someone falls and they verbally reply they are fine but their face is grimacing and their voice is shaky it’s obvious there is incongruence between the verbal and the non-verbal communication.
Our body language plays a huge part in creating a communication friendly environment. Think for a moment how you might feel if you went to talk to a close friend and during the conversation they were frowning, their arms were crossed and their tone of voice was less than approachable. It’s not likely you’d continue talking to them for long.
And so it is with children. Take note of your body language and try the following with your child:
Facial expression – a smile tells your child you are pleased with them
- Tone of voice – use a soft, low voice to calm and soothe a hurt child
- Pointing/looking – you can show where something is by pointing or looking at it
- Gesture/action – holding your arms out to say ‘ let’s have a hug’ or pretending to have a drink to say it’s drink time
When you create an environment at home that is communication friendly you will naturally encourage your child to communicate. So make use of objects and activities around the house that you can turn into conversation starters, think about your conversation habits and be aware of your body language.
How have you been able to develop a communication friendly environment in your home?
Speech Language Therapist