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Communicating with Your Child



  • There are many ways to communicate with your child such as talking, reading together, singing, and using gestures and facial expressions.
  • It’s also very important to listen to your child. When you listen and respond to your child's thoughts and feelings, it builds your child’s self-esteem. It also sets the stage for good communication between you and your teen later on.


Learning to communicate well with your child has many benefits. It can help your child:

  • Learn how to say what they think and feel
  • Feel good about themselves
  • Get along with other people

Here are some ideas for how to communicate with your child:

  • Talk a lot with your child. Children learn words and the rules for using them by listening to others talk. Therefore, what you say and how you say it is important. Talking is a natural part of many daily routines such as mealtime, bath time, and dressing. Encourage your child to ask for items, make choices, and answer questions. Teach your child to use words instead of crying, grunting, or pointing to get what they want.
  • Listen to your child. Let your child talk about what is important to them. Encourage your child to tell stories and share information. Give your child your undivided attention. Turn off the TV and put the cell phone away. Look at your child in the eyes at their level and don’t do other things while you listen. Nod your head now and then or use a phrase that shows your interest, such as “oh, I see” or “how about that.” Nonjudgmental remarks such as, "you look upset" or "you sound unhappy," let your child know that you are willing to listen. Do not criticize or shut down your child when they are upset. If your child knows that you will listen, they will be more likely to talk to you about important things as they grow up.

    Accepting your child's feelings does not mean accepting all behaviors. Help your child understand that feelings are not bad but that some behaviors are not OK. For example, tell your child that it is OK to feel angry at a brother or sister but not OK to hurt them. Help your child to learn to use words to express anger or frustration instead.

  • Pay attention to body language. Gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions are as important as words. A smile or a frown, speaking in a loud, scolding voice, or rolling your eyes communicates as much as words. A hug may be all that a crying toddler needs from you.
  • Sing or play music with your child. Music can help children who may not be able to put thoughts and feelings into words. Singing songs can help your child learn new words, memory skills, listening skills, and imitation. Art, dance, and pretending are other ways to help your child express thoughts and feelings. Reading to your child also helps teach new words and ideas.
  • Offer limited choices. Your child learns to make good decisions with practice. Start teaching your child early by asking questions such as asking which color shirt your child wants to wear.
  • Let your child make some mistakes. Your child may stop talking to you if you always point out mistakes in the way your child talks. Instead, gently let your child hear the correct way to say it. For example, if your child says, "I just seed a big truck across the street," respond, "you just saw a big truck? I just saw one, too."
  • Respond carefully to misbehavior. When your child misbehaves, be specific about what they did and tell them what you want them to do. Don’t blame or accuse your child. For example, "I have a headache, so please play quietly or play in the backyard,” is better than saying, "why do you always make so much noise when you can see that I have a headache." If you are upset with your child, it is best to take a break, calm down, and talk with your child later.
  • Offer praise when your child is being good. Positive attention generally has better results than only commenting when your child misbehaves.
  • Plan family trips and outings. Talk about the new experiences. Ask open-ended questions that your child can answer with more than one word. Ask why your child liked a certain animal at the zoo or a certain float in the parade.

Listening and responding to your child's thoughts and feelings builds your child’s self-esteem. It also sets the stage for good communication between you and your teen later.

If you and your child have ongoing trouble communicating, talk with your child’s healthcare professional. If needed, a family therapist can often be helpful.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2020-01-14
Last reviewed: 2019-05-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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