Effective communication is a necessary and beneficial skill at every age. We’ve all felt the helplessness and frustration of a crying infant. Diapers are changed, peek-a-boo ensues, and an offering of food is made in an attempt to meet their needs. Wouldn’t it be easier if they could tell us they wanted to go outside? But babies haven’t developed the verbal skills necessary to express their needs and desires.
Unfortunately, some people are naturally gifted communicators, whereas others struggle to communicate and verbalize their thoughts and ideas. This is why practicing communication skills and helping children to identify both verbal and non-verbal communication cues is so important.
Not only will this benefit them in their interactions with others, but it will also translate into improved written communication skills. If we struggle to find the words to speak, it can also be a struggle to get our thoughts coherently written. So why and how should we prioritize communication skills in our homeschool?
Model Effective Communication for Your Children
As homeschoolers, we are fortunate to play a primary role in the life and development of our children. We are present and can model effective communication.
Endless instruction does little to override a poor example; therefore, we must employ the skills we wish to develop in our children and not just give them lip service. Be kind to the checkout person who’s having a bad day, be pleasant but clear when dealing with a billing discrepancy, and express your opinion without attacking others, but most importantly, do these things in the presence of your children.
They are learning all the time and will quickly make our shortcomings apparent.
Practice and Play With Communication Skills
Certainly, we’ve all played the game of Telephone. You sit in a circle, and a secret travels from person to person. When the secret reaches the final recipient, everyone laughs at how distorted the message became as it progressed. Often used to demonstrate the dangers of gossip, it also shows the importance of not only expressing information carefully but of actively listening.
From show and tell to charades, many games develop a child’s ability to convey and receive information in a meaningful way.
We also practice communication through teaching writing, which gives children the skills needed to develop clear and concise written communication.
Employ a Powerful Pause
Many people are made uncomfortable by a pause or lull in the conversation. They feel the need to fill that void, whether needed or not. However, breaks are an essential part of communication.
Pauses benefit both parties in any communication. The person who received the information has time to process and reflect. The person conveying the information can now consider whether she truly communicated what she wished.
The pause is especially powerful when all parties are exhausted, and tensions are rising. Any parent of a teen knows how a break from heated discussions can calm nerves and allow everyone to choose their words carefully.
Learning to pause can be a great help for those who to tend to talk too much. Some overcommunicate because they never feel as if their point hasn’t been received. Pausing can allow some people to communicate more effectively by giving them time to consider their arguments.
Have Clear Communication Expectations
In addition to modeling excellent communication skills, it is also crucial for us to communicate to our children what we consider to be good communication skills, such as:
- Actively listening when being spoken to
- Giving information in a clear, yet concise manner
- Allowing others to speak in a conversation
- Making clear their desires and expectations
- Being honest and transparent in their dealings
- Make eye contact
This list sounds as if it would fall in the character and life skills department, but all are needed for a child to grow into an effective and trusted communicator.
Effective Communication at Every Age
If only we were all so lucky as to be gifted with an innate ability to communicate. Unfortunately, communication is a skill that needs to be practiced and used in order for many of us to achieve the communication skills needed in life.
Fortunately, it can be developed and become a habit that will benefit our children throughout life. No longer will they be the frustrated infant, but instead an adult who will benefit from their ability to communicate well.