Enrichment Classes

Let’s Talk: How to Help Your Child Engage in Meaningful Conversations

teaching-children-meaningful-conversations.jpg

Teaching children good conversational skills helps build their confidence and relationships, and could even strengthen your bond with them.

Children raised in a language-rich environment generally experience more success in personal, academic, and professional situations throughout their lives. The ability to express thoughts, emotions, and ideas helps them create connections and build lasting confidence.

Teaching children good conversation skills doesn’t only benefit them. It also allows you a better view of their lives and experiences, which can help improve parenting skills and strengthen your relationship with them. Raising a good conversationalist can help you and your child lead better lives, together and apart.

Talk the talk

The ability to start, join, or engage in conversation is a skill many adults take for granted. Children may seem to learn social interactions organically through experience — and in some cases they do — but you can help improve their conversational proficiency by practicing at home.

Here are four ways to help children learn to start and maintain meaningful conversations.

1. Initiating conversation

Starting a conversation can be challenging even when you have life experience. As a child, initiating dialog can be truly intimidating. Give your child clues about social cues and suggestions on how to strike up a conversation with others.

Emphasize:

  • Body language and appropriate timing

  • Appropriate greetings and introductions

  • How to choose a topic or ask others about an interest

Model good skills by:

  • Introducing yourself to other adults in your child’s presence

  • Giving gentle and supportive feedback and suggestions

  • Encouraging your child to approach peers in social situations

2. Encourage exchanges

As adults, we’ve all experienced the awkward burden of having to carry the conversation. Teach your child about the reciprocal nature of conversations and that it makes people feel good to know the other party is interested in what they have to say.

Emphasize:

  • The importance of eye contact

  • Commenting on or otherwise acknowledging statements

  • Asking appropriate questions

Model good skills by:

  • Showing interest in what your child is saying

  • Taking turns communicating

  • Providing time for them to respond

3. Expanding conversations

Natural lulls in conversation or an obvious lack of interest from the other party mean it’s time to talk about a new topic. Help your child recognize these moments to move past the initial introductions and add depth to their dialog.

Emphasize:

  • Not monopolizing conversations with their own interests

  • How to take turns while talking

  • To listen for clues about topics the other party may be interested in

Model good skills by:

  • Asking your child open-ended questions about things they’ve said

  • Suggesting some general topics others may be interested in discussing

  • Practicing with sentence stem cards

4. Comfortable conclusions

Knowing how to end a conversation can be as difficult as understanding how to approach one. It’s important to recognize when the other party has to go, when the conversation has naturally come to an end, and how to extricate yourself gracefully.

Emphasize:

  • Body language and non-verbal cues of both the speaker and the listener

  • Transitional closing statements, such as, “Well, I have to get going.”

  • Making the other party feel good about the interaction: “It was nice meeting you!”

 

  • Model good skills by:

  • Point out nonverbal cues, like yawning, turning away, or checking the time

  • Teach your child phrases to politely end the conversation

  • Politely step in to remind your child it’s time to go if you see they need help

The best way to help your child master the art of conversation is to practice, practice, and practice. Ask them about their day, their friends, and their interests; encourage conversations with friends and family members. Exposing children to a broad range of people and situations can help them develop the self-confidence and social savvy to excel at talking to others.

Lumiere Children's Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about out social enrichment classes on how to initiate meaningful conversations.

How to Help an Anxious Child

anxious-child.jpg

Learning to identify and manage the symptoms of anxiety in children.

One of the most difficult parts of parenting is watching your children struggle with things that and knowing you can’t step in and save them. It’s even more frustrating when the problem is something you may not fully understand, like anxiety.

Although it can be difficult to accept the validity or extent of an issue as intangible as anxiety, the feelings your child is experiencing are real. He or she is genuinely fearful, confused, and in need of your guidance.

Even if you can’t eliminate the source of the anxiety, you can help your child identify and manage its effects by educating yourself on the symptoms, triggers, and therapeutic tools for this condition.

Signs of childhood anxiety

Anxiety can be tricky to recognize because we all experience it to some extent — it’s a normal side effect of trying new things and dealing with the uncertainties of daily life. Children are surrounded by unfamiliar people and situations that may make them uncomfortable at first. How can you tell when your child is feeling nervous or reluctant to a normal degree versus experiencing anxiety?

It might be anxiety if your child shows a recurring pattern of the following symptoms:

  • Complains of headaches or stomach aches with no apparent medical reason.

  • Appears sensitive, cries, or seems restless, worried, or scared a lot.

  • Shakes, sweats, has an increased heart rate, or feels flushed in intimidating situations.

  • Has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, or experiences nightmares.

  • Refuses to go to school or isolates themselves in social situations.

  • Experiences panic attacks due to an overactive fight or flight response.

If you suspect your child is suffering from anxiety, discuss it with their teacher or other caregivers to get a second perspective, then address the concerns with your pediatrician.

Helping children learn to manage their feelings

Unfortunately, you can’t just push a button and relieve your child’s anxiety or transfer that burden onto yourself. However, responding carefully and thoughtfully to your child’s concerns can help them learn to better manage the sensations associated with anxiety.

Telling your child that there is nothing to worry about, though it may be true, isn’t helpful. They don’t want to worry, but anxiety triggers a biological surge of chemicals and mental transitions that put the more logical part of the brain on hold while the automated part takes over. Children may even understand that the reaction is irrational, but that only compounds their fears that something is wrong.

Instead, try to acknowledge how the child is feeling. Ask them to pause and take some deep breaths with you. Encourage them to persevere and praise them for trying.

Learning to recognize and talk about these feelings can also help. Understanding the reasons behind their physical symptoms can dampen the fear of the unknown. From there, help your child brainstorm potential solutions — things they could do in the moment to relieve the stress they feel.

Most importantly, remain calm and be patient. Anxiety can be frustrating to deal with — and you’re not a bad parent for feeling that way — but keeping your composure will help your child feel safe, and that’s essential.

Working with a professional is the best path to long-term success, so don’t hesitate to get your child outside help for managing anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps kids and parents learn coping skills to manage worry, fear, and anxiety. It teaches valuable tools that help children develop the confidence to face their fears throughout a lifetime.

Childhood anxiety can be stressful for parents as well as their children. But with the proper understanding and willingness to get professional advice, you can help your child learn to manage these emotions and react to difficult situations in ways that lead to a more peaceful and empowered life.

Lumiere Children's Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.