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The skills required to communicate with children

This article discusses the skills for communication with children, including the do's and don'ts for children with communication problems.
Man and boy talking happily
© University of Strathclyde

The way in which adults and carers communicate and interact with children and young people is one way in which they influence their growth and development. Well-judged communication and interactions will aid growth and encourage healthy development.

Effective communication with children and young people

Effective communication with children and young people should always be delivered at a level and pace which is consistent with their development and understanding. The most particular example of this will be pre-verbal babies and infants where touch, facial expressions and gestures will all be vital communication tools.

As children and young people grow and develop the manner in which we communicate will become increasingly more sophisticated. There are a number of factors which we need to consider when thinking about effective communication with children and young people.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Juliet Koprowska compiled a list of Do’s and Don’t’s designed to help communicate with children and young people. They are based on material that thinks about the needs of children with communication problems and those where evidence is being gathered about the alleged abuse. The list includes:

Do:

  • Encourage the child to tell you if you get in a muddle or get things wrong;
  • Model this for them by saying when you don’t understand;
  • Encourage the child to tell you if they don’t know the answer to something you ask;
  • Slow down;
  • Use short sentences;
  • Allow time for your utterance to be processed;
  • Use simple language;
  • Give choices;
  • If a child has attention problems, make sure you have their attention before you speak;
  • Ask one question at a time.

Don’t:

  • Talk at length – take short turns or the child may lose the thread;
  • Ask yes/no questions – younger children tend to answer the same way each time;
  • Ask leading questions;
  • Ask tag questions – a form of a leading question which is also over-complex;
  • Use complex sentence structures which obscure the meaning;
  • Correct the child’s use of language, but respond using the right form.

If you’d like to learn more about caring for vulnerable children, check out the full online course from The University of Strathclyde, below.

© University of Strathclyde
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Caring for Vulnerable Children

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