From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Talking With Children
Children and Adults speak different languages. They see things from different
perspectives, respond to adults with caution, and speak in code with their friends. For
this reason, it takes a certain finesse and sincerity to communicate with a child. This
article is dedicated to children under 10, and the parents who want to communicate with
- Children live in the Here and Now. Though they may look forward to holidays and
birthdays, the mental time frame of a child is today. Today, things happened that were
either wonderful or catastrophic. Today, the world was a good or bad place. And though
children remember the past, this moment is what's important.
- Inform your child of your plans. Because they lack experience with many life situations,
kids are unlikely to be prepared for change. When you tell your child about your plans for
the day, they develop a sense of preparedness. Otherwise, life is a constant surprise.
When a child feels constantly surprised, rather than informed, they also feel manipulated.
When this gets uncomfortable, they tend to rebel through a wide variety of embarrassing
- To a Child, Play is the Priority. Play is to children, what talking is to adults. It is
their way of interacting with each other... often non-verbally, sometimes with
make-believe and through games in which they can make up the rules. It is a personal
exchange of companionship. If you wish to pay attention to a child and get them to
communicate with you, play a game with them. Play therapy has long been an effective way
to help children open up and express the feelings, thoughts and frustrations of childhood.
- Children need one-on-one attention and respect. Kids know when they are being treated
with respect or sarcasm. Adults often unknowingly damage the self-esteem of children by
poking fun or "picking" at them. Once again, children lack the experience to
defend their self-worth and usually believe the things we say about them.
- We are all still children on the inside. Though we grow up and pass through
developmental stages of life, this is a cumulative process. Our personalities grow and
snowball over time, molded by our experiences. When a child is abused, he or she remains
abused all through their lives, even though the actual abuse may have ended a long time
ago. By the same token, when we grow up with safe and trustworthy relationships with
adults, we develop positive self-esteem and self-confidence that we also retain for the
rest of our lives.
My son, who is nine, and I love to play board games. I have never developed the
"hang" of electronic games, but games such as Monopoly, Life, Scrabble and
Checkers, provide us with a world to explore. Sitting on the floor at the same eye level,
we can play, talk, compete, change rules by democratic vote, and I can relate stories from
my childhood. It is a time of sharing and a time when he can gain mastery and victories.
Its a time of encouragement and closeness for both of us.
I'm reminded of the quotation that says "The best thing you can give your child is
your time". "Quality Time" isn't just helping with homework... its also fun
ęCopyright, 1992, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,