No matter what age your child is, communication is an essential skill. It helps children confirm their understanding of what they are supposed to learn in the classroom, collaborate effectively with other students and people, advocate for themselves, and of course, create clear, effective written work. How can you help your child strengthen those verbal and nonverbal communication skills? Here are several tips:
- Build the listening skills. Listening should be an active process in which your child focuses on whoever is speaking and simultaneously processes what that person says. Teach your child to watch for teachers’ and others’ non-verbal cues as well as their words. It’s also important to confirm understanding periodically. Remember also that listening isn’t just something your child should do in school. Teach him or her to become a good conversationalist by summarizing, responding, making eye contact and using respectful body language.
- Work on written communication. Speaking and listening are essential components of communication, but the written word will prove powerful throughout your child’s life. Help your child discover ways to practice writing for fun. Blogging, creating short stories or poetry, or keeping a paper or computer journal are great ways to get your child to express him or herself and hone the writing skills.
- Fuel those curiosities. Young children are highly curious, asking questions about anything and everything. As your child grows older, try to foster that continued interest in learning new things and understanding how things work. When your child learns something new, ask lots of questions. The more your child engages in the learning process by seeking answers to burning questions, sharing what he or she learns, and expressing ideas, the better communicator he or she will become.
- Invite input. In high school, teachers will begin to expect that your child can engage in collaborative discussions with peers and build on one another’s diverse perspectives. At home, you can help your child improve this skill by inviting him or her to weigh in on conversations and consider not just his or her own perspective on a topic, but that of others. Whenever possible, draw out your child’s inner thinker.
- Back up those opinions. An extension of critical thinking, the art of debate will serve your child well in school and life. Your child should be able to state an opinion as well as the reasons behind it. In writing class, your child will be asked often to write persuasive arguments or convince a reader of something. You can help your child strengthen this ability by thinking through why he or she believes certain things and by listening carefully to others’ viewpoints to understand why they might feel differently.
Communication skills are essential for children in school and become even more important in their future careers. Talk with the professionals at any college career center or browse open job descriptions on any job website and you’ll discover that strong writing, listening and communication are highly sought-after skills by most companies. As your child matures into a young adult, help him or her nurture the ever-important communication aptitudes. In doing so, you will equip him for success in college and beyond.
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