Conversations build connections. A child who feels connected to their parents is more likely to feel happy but it can be difficult to get kids to talk. So often we hear from parents who’ve asked their child what’s happened at school that day only to receive monosyllabic answers. “My kids don’t tell me anything.” Does this sound familiar?
Building family relationships are just one of the benefits of developing a conversational rapport with your child. In particular, paying a specific focus on soft skills in education. Seated in the fact that many jobs that exist now won’t exist in the future, soft skills are being highlighted as the key to setting up children for success. The term ‘soft skills’ covers an almost non-exhaustive list but could simply be summarised as ‘people, social and self-awareness skills’. Engaging with a child and encouraging them to discuss key questions is a great way to kick-start their development in these areas.
Technology is a key barrier preventing kids from developing conversational skills as they are spending increasing amounts of time on devices which leads to dwindling communication. A 2018 study by Ofcom found kids preferred to spend more time at home and engaging with their friends on social media online rather than face to face. As a result, many young kids struggle with basic communication skills we take for granted, such as making eye contact and chatting in person with friends. With so much tech time, they also have far fewer opportunities to learn how to pick up on people's body language and tone of voice.
The benefits of encouraging your kids to talk are far-reaching. Through more conversations, they will be building skills such as:
So how does a parent address all of this in a fun, engaging way? Here are just four simple steps to follow:
1. Set time to talk. A teacher once said to me, there’s no such thing as not having time, you can always make time. It has always stuck with me, irritated as I was when he said it, I soon realised he was right and it’s stood me in a good sense. Carving out time at key moments rather than trying to create extra time is a pragmatic approach for the time poor. Key occasions could be:
Long car rides/trips
At the dinner table
On the school run
2. Listen. Kids will register your body language and involvement. They won’t miss a thing being especially quick to disengage if they think you’re not paying attention. So listen. Actively. Ask questions and extend their stream of thought. Try not to correct them, whatever you’re talking about, whatever they say, if their train of thought is provocative help steer them in the right direction.
3. Be prepared. Think about what you want to talk about. If it helps, use a game or prompts such as our Conversation Cards for kids. These can give you a fun, engaging way that enables your child to own the conversation in a structured way.
4. Don’t put this off. Talking is a simple, easy way to engage with your child and the short-term pain of potentially wrestling them away from their device will be hugely outweighed by the long-term gain of strengthening your relationship and helping them develop as people.
We’ll finish with two words.