Communication is key, especially when it comes to talking with our children. Our behaviours are models for our children, but how we talk with them also has different impacts throughout their development.
Baby talk may feel like lighthearted cooing, but it’s actually great for your baby’s brain development and language acquisition. This style of talking is often described as parentese, defined by Carnegie Mellon University as “short, simple sentences coupled with higher pitch and exaggerated intonation”.
Singsong tones help capture their attention, particularly in their first few years when the majority of their brain is still developing. Studies show that babies should have stimulation, forming the right connections early on to benefit their learning in the future.
Small children whose parents talk with them often develop better language skills. Studies show that simply hearing speech, like watching television, does not impact their vocabulary size – it’s the act of having conversations that improves their development.
Describing your surroundings or narrating what’s happening can be a great way to help support your toddler’s language development. Having time to talk with your toddler without distraction also helps with bonding between parent and child, creating shared experiences together.
With young children, there are a few key elements of how we talk with them and how it can impact their development. Research suggests that it’s the quality of the conversation that is most impactful, which means they’re fully engaged and taking turns. Here are a few tips for speaking with this age group:
- Positive feedback and encouragement can greatly help in contributing to their confidence and learning.
- Reading to your child everyday provides tremendous benefits and contributes to their reading comprehension.
- As children begin school, developing listening skills and understanding body language are all part of making friends and participating in the learning environments.
As children grow older, how we talk with them can help with their confidence, self-esteem and maintaining open communication. It’s also important to remember that the attitudes and behaviours we model will help reinforce the life lessons that will start to solidify for the youngest members of our families.
Puberty also plays a role in how relationships may shift. Being able to talk openly about different feelings, even the negative, will help them navigate new challenges that may be happening with changing bodies and emotions, new friendships, relationships, or changes in school. Though this age may mean your children are more likely to start turning to their friends and peers for advice or to confide in, there are ways to create opportunities for conversations without creating pressure, such as designated family meals.
The teen years are often filled with new stresses for both parents and children. As they become young adults, new responsibilities and decisions about the future loom large. Here are a few tips for keeping the communication lines open:
- Validating your teen’s feelings when they approach you with emotional statements will help them feel supported. Jumping to solutions when your child is initially expressing their emotions may feel dismissive, even if they’re expressed with the best intentions.
- Demonstrate trust with your teenager – they aren’t small anymore and will need to learn responsibilities and independence as they approach adulthood.
- Positive feedback and encouragement continues to play a role in how we communicate with our children at every stage, including teenagers. Positive examples for relationships will teach them how they should be treated in all relationships, including future romantic relationships.
How you communicate with your children at every stage of life can benefit their development, confidence and further your relationship as they grow. These benefits will be rewarding for both parent and child, and can help build skills for lifelong learning, whether it’s in a classroom setting at school or forming new friendships on the playground.