One of the biggest worries that parents have is that their child finds it difficult to understand what is being said. This is important to address because it can hinder a child’s ability to follow instructions, respond to questions and follow conversations. This can also hinder their ability to absorb material taught in class, to keep up with their peers, as well as to complete homework and other assigned tasks.
If your child has difficulty understanding what is being said, below are ten strategies that you can use when communicating with them. These strategies can also be used by classroom teachers.
1. Speak Slower:
Think about a time when someone spoke to you really quickly in a language that you were not very fluent in. Most likely, you wished that they would speak slower so that you would understand more of what they were saying. This was certainly the case for me when I started communicating in Thai. The same is true when speaking to children. Nowadays, our talking reflects the fast-paced nature of our day. When speaking to your child, try to speak using a slower pace. This will make your speech sound clearer to them and will also give them more time to process each word that you are saying.
2. Build Vocabulary:
When your child comes across a word that they do not know, explain the meaning of this word to your child. Then make a plan to use this word in a sentence five times when communicating with your child over the next week.
3. Encourage Seeking Clarification:
As adults, when we don’t understand something, we seek clarification by asking a question. Encourage your child to do this when they do not understand what has been said to them. This is an important skill to have not just for understanding, but to avoid communicative breakdowns during conversations.
Often when we are tired or thinking about something, we tend to say things in a monotone manner. If you speak using a flat tone to your child, they may miss the important point of what you are saying. When talking to your child, try to emphasise key words in what you are saying by increasing your volume or placing more stress on certain words. This will direct your child’s attention to what they should focus on.
I was once assessing a five-year-old child who could not follow my simple instruction, “point to the ball”. Eventually, I realised that the child simply did not understand “point to”. I then changed the instruction to begin with “show me” instead, and after doing so, the child correctly followed the instruction. If your child has difficulty understanding what is being said, try to reword.
6. Break Things Down:
When some children are given instructions with multiple steps, they are likely to forget at least one step. Simplify your instructions by breaking them down, rather than presenting them all at once. For instance, instead of saying, “put your toys away, then brush your teeth and wear your pyjamas,” you can first say, “put your shoes away”. Then, once your child has completed this, you can move to the next part of the instruction, “brush your teeth”.
If your child does not understand something that you have said, say it again. Also, encourage your child to ask for repetition from you and from other people when they do not understand something. After all, we as adults do this all the time!
8. Use Gestures:
Some adults frequently use gestures when talking. In fact, I am known for ‘talking with my hands’ at times. You can use your hands to make gestures when talking to your child to help them understand what you are saying.
9. Use Visual Aids:
Many children who have difficulty understanding information presented verbally, respond quite well when something is presented visually. If your child responds well to visual aids, try to use signs and pictures at home to support your child’s understanding.
If you ask your child to do something for the first time and your child does not understand what you mean, show them- after all, children learn from watching others in their environment (Vicarious learning; Bandura, 1962).
As always, if you have any questions or comments that you would like to share, feel free to write them in the section below.
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The Expat Speechie
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