Just take a look at any job description in a hiring ad, and you will see how important communication skills are. Communication skills are not just about having the language capabilities to convey our intended message; it is also about being tactful in our interactions with others, and having confidence to speak to various audiences, from a large crowd to an individual.
It is no wonder that good leaders and team players all need to have skilful communication abilities to play their roles well. That is why it is so crucial to help young children cultivate effective communication abilities from a young age. As a parent, it is no longer enough to ‘leave it to chance’ in terms of building up your child’s communication skills. Instead, you need to take active steps to hone their awareness of the way they communicate.
If you need some pointers for how to do so, here are some suggestions for developing communication abilities in your school-going children:
Use open-ended questions in conversation
One key aspect of communicating is knowing how to hold a conversation with others. To encourage conversation-making in your young child, you should use open-ended questions frequently. While close-ended questions limit the conversation, open-ended questions give your child more things to talk about. For example, instead of asking ‘Do you like the food?’, you can ask ‘What do you like about this dish?’
Open-ended questions also give children practice in thinking through and formulating their answer. ‘Why’ and ‘how’ questions, in particular, are useful for promoting creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. So, don’t be stingy with the open-ended questions!
Engage in pretend play with your child
To be a good communicator, you need to be aware of how to behave and react in different situations. Much of life consists of what are called ‘communication scripts’ – these are conventionalised sets of speech that we encounter in our day-to-day experiences. You can help your child be aware of how to deal with these situations by role-playing at home.
Some common scenarios you can act out at home are: Ordering food from the hawker auntie; Going to the doctor’s for a consultation; Talking to a new classmate at school; and so on. By exposing your child to these speech situations, they are less likely to be caught off-guard when they encounter them in reality.
Although we think of communication as speaking, there are many other aspects of it, like learning how to empathise, show respect, read body language, and the like. Another way parents can expose children to a variety of communication situations is through reading storybooks together. Through stories, children can see how characters behave and communicate in different situations.
Stories are also a good starter for discussion. Parents can use stories to encourage their children to voice their thoughts. You could ask them things like ‘Tell me about your favourite character.’ or ‘Why do you think that character acted that way?’
Role-model a good communicator
Children learn a lot by modelling and imitating what they see. So, it is only natural that one of the sure ways to bring up a good communicator is to walk the talk. Being an excellent communicator is not only about having all the right words to say – one needs to know when to listen, take turns, and be silent as well. Parents should demonstrate these in their daily interaction with others so that children can pick up on these cues easily.
When necessary, parents can also point out salient aspects of communication to teach their child. Say, if your child has a habit of interrupting, you can point out the right way to get someone’s attention by highlighting the right behaviour. For example, you could say ‘Did you see what Daddy did when he wanted to speak to Mummy?’
Promoting effective communication skills in children start from the home. However, it can get tricky once the kids head to school and spend more time there. Hence, it is equally important to make sure your child’s school is doing a good job of cultivating communication skills in your child. In fact, schools can complement the efforts from home because it presents different situations for children to tackle.
A good international school in Singapore like the Canadian International School would provide young students with the platforms to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and speak to larger audiences in the classroom. Whether your child is in the kindergarten level or IB primary years programme, these communication skills will add up and be beneficial to your child later in their IB education in Singapore and their careers.
With healthy communication skills at home and ample practice opportunities in school, your child can grow up to be an eloquent and confident communicator. Equip your child with this indispensable skill of communication early on, and they’ll be sure to thank you in time to come.