By Raising Children Network
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During the early school years, home life and family relationships are still the biggest influence on a child’s development. Good family relationships are just what children need to learn and grow.

Young girl touching noses with her mum
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Connecting with your school-age child

Love is what we all want most of the time, often without even realising it. Young children want love even more. By connecting with school-age children and giving them lots of positive attention, we show them how much we love them.

Sometimes it can help to try seeing through your child’s eyes, because children do think differently from adults. They don’t always understand situations in the same way. For example, children can think they’re to blame for things that have nothing to do with them. 

And no matter how old your child is, your praise and encouragement will help her feel good about herself and strengthen your bond. 

Your child’s communication skills might seem to have changed overnight. Your child understands more about how you feel and can talk about things that interest both of you. Talking and listening together improves your bond, builds self-esteem and teaches your child to think about the world outside.

Communicating with your school-age child

Positive communication is the basis of good family relationships – what children need to learn and grow. But positive communication isn’t just about saying ‘nice’ things or sharing good news. It’s about being able to talk about all kinds of feelings – anger, embarrassment, sadness, fear – and all kinds of topics, even death. It also means really listening when someone wants to tell you that kind of stuff.

Positive communication with your school-age child is built on time, listening, respect – and persistence.

Making time
Make regular time to communicate with your child in your own special way. Even two minutes every half hour makes a difference. And when your child comes to you to talk, try to drop everything. Your child might need your undivided attention for only five minutes.

When you make the time to listen, you can sometimes catch the first seed of a potential conversation. A passing comment (‘The teacher said something strange today’) might open up into an important conversation about something that is puzzling or worrying your child.

Tuning in
When you really tune in to what your child is trying to say, you can pick up the emotions behind your child’s words.

Looking your child in the eye helps you tune in to what your child might be feeling or thinking. It can also help to avoid conflict. This way your child is less likely to feel frustrated. To help children maintain eye contact without getting distracted, you can gently hold their faces and focus your eyes on them in a way that is engaging, rather than intimidating. At your child’s age, some children are uncomfortable making eye contact. If so, you can check that your child is listening to you by getting your child to repeat what you just said.

Active listening
This is when you repeat back to your child what you think he’s feeling. Children tend to get frustrated a lot, especially if they can’t express themselves as well as they would like. Active listening helps children cope with their young emotions and relieves some of their tension. It also makes them feel respected and comforted. It can diffuse many potential temper tantrums.

When you’ve listened, ask if your child wants your advice before jumping in to solve your child’s problem. You can also ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk more about things.

Respect
Here are a few tips for showing your child respect while you talk and listen together:

  • Try to let your child finish sentences before interrupting, no matter how meandering they might be.
  • Always try to be honest with your child. Children are brighter than many of us think. When we lie to them, we lose their trust.
  • Don’t criticise your child for using the wrong words. The idea is to give your child the chance for free expression. If children are always criticised for the way they speak, they might just clam up. 

You might like to read more about talking and listening in a positive way.

Other tips for communicating

  • Read to your child and tell stories. Picture books help children learn about language. 
  • Have some fun – jokes and humour can be a great way of getting through difficult situations with children.
  • Negotiate with your child. Negotiation doesn’t mean giving in and it can be a great learning experience for your child.
  • How much you talk with your child about traumatic events will depend on how old your child is and how closely it touches her life. 
We all have times when we can’t believe what we just said to our children. Most parents have blurted out something like, ‘You’ll never learn!’ or ‘Stop crying now, just stop it!’ Often the best way to deal with these situations is to admit you’re wrong and apologise. This will help both you and your child feel better.

Talking about school

Your child spends six hours a day at school. But when you ask, ‘What did you do at school today’, the answer is often, ‘Nothing’. Rest assured that children do something at school! It’s just that your school-age child might need your encouragement to talk about school. Your child also needs to know that you’re really listening.

When you get home at the end of the day, your child might want to tell you all the news of the day straight away – even if you’re not quite ready to hear it! A big head and heart shift from work to home is what you need to really leave work behind and be present with your child.

Understanding rules

During the first few years of school, children can be preoccupied with learning rules. Playing games with rules help children understand what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

To teach your child about rules and values, you can:

  • explain why some things are considered right and others wrong
  • talk simply about what society won’t let you do
  • encourage empathy by getting your child to think about someone else’s position. How would your child feel?
  • talk to your child about your family’s values and why you have them.

Video: Special moments with your school-age child

Download Video  21mb

‘Love is easy’, say the parents in this short video.

Mums and dads talk about special moments with their children. They describe how praise and encouragement make their children feel loved, safe and secure. They talk about the positive impact of these moments on both parents and children.

 
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  • Newsletter snippet: School-age connecting and communicating: in a nutshell

    By Raising Children Network

    Your little one has started school, but family is still the biggest influence in your child’s life. A loving environment is perfect for learning and growing.

    School-age children sometimes need your encouragement to talk about their day. They also need to know that you are really listening, especially when there are difficult things to share. You can help your school-age child communicate by:

    • tuning in to what your child is trying to say
    • giving your child your undivided attention
    • maintaining eye contact
    • relieving any frustration by repeating what you think they are trying to say
    • trying not to interrupt
    • being honest
    • asking open questions
    • avoiding being critical if your child uses the wrong words
    • tuning in to any passing comment that might give a clue to what is worrying your child
    • discussing social rules with your child
    • thinking about how to explain traumatic events to your child.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit raisingchildren.net.au/connecting__communicating/school_age_connecting.html.

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website www.raisingchildren.net.au.


 
 
 
  • Last Updated 29-02-2012
  • Last Reviewed 01-12-2011