Get your child to talk about his or her day

If you cannot get your child to talk about his or her day, it is not the child it is something wrong with, it is you.

Danish researchers who study the development of social skills in children have come to the assistance of parents, as reported on the Danish website videnskab.dk.

This is how you get your child to talk about his or her day

Discretionary recall

Professor Peter Krøjgaard from Aarhus University Centre for Autobiographic Memory Research explains how a child’s frontal brain is not yet fully developed. This means that the child is not able to make a discretionary recall of particular events from the day on command. A question like how was your day and what did you do today are difficult for children to respond to. They have had a thousand things happen but cannot on command bring up a suitable selection for parental delectation in the car on the way home. A child’s memory is factually linked and abstractions or a linear recall is not yet possible.

Be specific

Go by what you know about what your child has been up to. Is it a nice summers day and you know your little one likes footy, try who did you play footy with or did you get time to play sports. This will focus the child’s thought on a fact about his or her day and they can access that memory cache and fill you in on everything about that and associated with that.

Remember the nature of a child’s recall capacity and try to take just a moment to hear what’s buzzing around in your child’s head

Be attentive when the child invites to talk. Something the child sees or hears may trigger their memory and when they have it clear in their mind they will often invite to talk about something that happened or that they have experienced. These are fleeting moments and it can be difficult when this happens at an inconvenient time, like when parents are busy preparing dinner or cleaning. Because these moments come up suddenly by association, this recall will easily disappear if you tell the child to wait until after you have finished what you are doing.

Remember the nature of a child’s recall capacity and try to take just a moment to hear what’s buzzing around in your child’s head. Research shows that this communication, even when it is about nothing in particular, is important for how kids forge social and emotional bonds with carers in the first few years of their life.

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Talking to children helps develop social skills

Developing the ability to describe events and emotions

Lector of Psychology at Copenhagen University, Mette Skovgaard Væver, says there is no doubt that talking with children is important for their development. Conversations help give children social skills. It helps them develop the ability to describe events and emotions. They develop a vocabulary that helps them recognise emotions in themselves and others, which again gives them the ability to socialise appropriately with others of the same age and other people more generally. The parents should also remember to see a situation from a child’s perspective and for example, recognise if the child is tired and therefore is not keen to talk. Do not force the child to talk, it is important that the social talk does not become an interview or becomes conditional for some reward.

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The frontal brain, also called the frontal lobe, is the part of the brain that controls important cognitive skills, such as emotional expression, problem-solving, memory, language and judgment. It is the “control panel” of our personality and our ability to communicate. It develops gradually and is not fully developed until a person is in the early 20’s. Source: Professor Peter Krøjgaard and Healthline.com[/otw_shortcode_info_box]

 Help your child handle negative emotions

The ability to handle the child’s negative emotions is decisive for connectedness and trust. Talking when something is upsetting is a great help for children. With an appropriate vocabulary and ability to recognise emotions in others, they can learn to solve conflicts and learn to settle own emotions. Talking can help them develop strategies to handle conflict and negative emotions and events. You can help your child understand what a conflict is about and put it in words.

If a child is upset saying the other children did not want to play my game, don’t tell the child to not be selfish or to respect the other children etc. get the child to talk about the game and what the children chose to play instead. Maybe both games were actually fun? Were they already playing it and didn’t want to change? Could they play your game after? This helps the child think about self and others in positive and factual terms. This also shows the child that it is ok to talk about feelings, both positive and negative.

source: Vera Kratochvil
source: Vera Kratochvil

Parent-Child talk helps children’s memories

Professor Peter Krøjgaard says that talking about experiences helps children sort through and categorise memories so that they are more easily recalled later and also sets up a model for later. It allows a child to have a more detailed and rich mental life as it helps develop the frontal brain capacity.

A small child just answering yes and no, does not necessarily mean that the child is not keen to talk but could mean the expressive ability is not yet there.

Small children will need lots of prompting to talk, lots of keywords and help to fill in and put words to things that have happened. A small child just answering yes and no, does not necessarily mean that the child is not keen to talk but could mean the expressive ability is not yet there. When you ask the little child, did he or she like the game and you only get yes, try asking; who were in the game, what was the game about. Help the child formulate the experience: say, it sounds like you were really fast, it sounds like you went up really high on the swing etc.

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These examples will become a vocabulary and a scaffold in a way that will help the child communicate with you and others better as it models what you are interested in, how a conversation generally goes and helps put words to the aspects of the game that the child liked but was not able to express by itself.

Communications skills for life

Professor Peter Krøjgaard says it is important in a family to have a manner and habit of interacting with children that allow children to express themselves and where their experiences are seen as important, interesting and worthy of attention. This strengthens the child’s self-image and self-worth.

Communicating with the child also imparts social conventions to the child that shows that it is good to share and talk about feelings and experiences. This increases a person’s ability to internally reflect on his or her own life and experiences and puts the child on a better path to handling his or her life in the future.

Sources:

Peter Krøjgaard Profile

Mette Skovgaard Væver Profile

Lise Copeland
Author: Lise Copeland

I like to write about current topics concerning young people, education and mental health. I developed this website to help other parents and it is used by several hundred people every week. I have two kids at University and one in high school. They have attended State, Catholic and Independent schools in three States and Territories as well as overseas, giving me lots of first hand experience of how different schools can contribute. Education: BA(Hons) with Philosophy, Latin and Ancient Greek languages and BA Law (LLB).

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