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It's never too soon to talk

By Linda Blair's Mind Healing column | 2017-04-18 10:04:13.0

Every parent hopes their children will want to talk to them, to share their hopes and dreams and to seek comfort, reassurance and advice. When can we start making that happen?

The answer is that it's never too early. From the moment they're born, babies will try to communicate with their carers. Spend lots of face-to-face time with your baby so they feel safe and wanted. Smile, talk and sing to them, copy their facial expressions and take turns vocalising. Not only does this deepen the bond between you both, but it also means your baby has the best chance to develop good social and linguistic skills.

In the pre-school years, talk with your toddler as much as possible. Explain what you're doing, even when the task seems mundane. Read stories, sing together, and try your best to answer their questions and encourage them to tell you more. A study at Harvard by Courtney Cazden showed toddlers develop linguistic skills quicker if carers respond to the meaning of what they're saying, rather than if they correct mistakes.

Children who are listened to and encouraged also grow up believing you value them and that you're there for them. So, later, when they encounter problems, it will seem natural to turn to you.

As soon as your child is old enough to share meals at the table with you, ensure you all sit down together to eat and talk - to one another and not on phones or tablets - as often as possible.

Once children are in school and everyone's schedule becomes more crowded, you're unlikely to find time for a family meal every day, but don't let this important tradition die out. One good way to keep it going is to promise a special treat once a week - make Thursday a pizza or pasta night, for example.

As children approach adolescence, their peers become increasingly important to them, and this is when parents fear that the lines of communication, so carefully nurtured, will close down. However, there's no need for that to happen if you follow a few guidelines.

First, don't barrage your teen with questions. This feels intrusive and makes them wonder if you trust them. Do, however, establish regular times when they know you're available to listen to them fully if they want to talk.

Secondly, resolve to be more flexible about listening times, and more prepared to put aside what you're doing when they come to you with their dilemmas.

Thirdly, be aware that teenagers are more likely to open up about sensitive issues if, when they first start talking, they don't feel they have to look at you directly. A good time for them is while you're taking them somewhere in the car.

Finally, and most importantly, try just to listen... without judging.

If you offer your opinion only if asked, your teenager is more likely to feel safe enough to share their worries with you

The Daily Telegraph

 

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