Grade school kids are just learning how to interact with their classmates and make friends. At this age, your child may need your help with making conversation, and they may need your help to learn how to better communicate their thoughts and feelings.
1. Talk regularly with your child.
Kids who have trouble communicating may not want to talk at all. Your job is to encourage your child to begin or join in conversation as much as possible. This will most definitely help your child begin to feel more comfortable opening up.
During car rides, chat about where you’re headed. During meal prep, chat about the steps involved in what you’re making. Talk during commercial breaks about each of your favorite parts of the TV show so far.
Demonstrate how to make conversations relevant to what’s happening around your child. Introduce new words and concepts all the time. Model phrases your child can use as conversation starters.
2. Describe the day.
Encourage your child to tell you how the day went—in as much detail as possible. Ask, “What were the best and worst parts of school?” This helps with recall and sequencing: two skills kids who struggle with communication may have trouble with. Recount the events of your day as well. Maybe say something like, “I was in the grocery store today. Guess what I saw in the fruit aisle?”
As a bonus, this kind of sharing also promotes connection between you and your child. (Read on for more bonding ideas.)
3. Listen to and reflect what your child says.
Model one of the most important conversation skills: Listening to and expanding upon what someone else says. After your child has told you something, repeat back part of what your child said, and then follow up with a question: “Wow, it sounds like that art project took a lot of patience. What other project do you think would be fun to make? And what different materials would you need?”
4. Have practice conversations with your child.
Talk through the types of situations your child might be the most nervous about. These might include talking to other kids while waiting for the bus, for example, or sitting with them at lunch. Then practice what your child might say. Take turns pretending to be each person in the conversation so that your child can think through different scenarios, conversation topics, and responses.
5. Point out body language.
Kids who struggle with communication may not always pick up on other kids’ nonverbal cues. Sometimes these cues are called body language.
For your grade school child, consider showing and explaining body language. You can say, “I’m crossing my arms because I’m feeling angry,” or “When you roll your eyes at me, I feel disrespected.”
6. Start fun conversations with your child.
Topics could range from “What was the funniest thing you saw in school today?” to “I think the car needs a good cleaning. Should we take it to the car wash, or do it ourselves? What would you like to be in charge of? Bumpers? Vacuuming?”
7. Read with your child.
It doesn’t matter what you read with your child. What’s most important is that you do it together. If you’re concerned that your child chooses the same books every night, don’t be. Your child is developing a better understanding of the character and plots and vocabulary used.
Take turns reading to one another, even if your child just fills a word in here and there. After finishing a book or TV show, discuss the setting, plot, characters, and any new words that might be in the story.
8. Teach your child how to play conversational “catch.”
Try getting your child used to the back-and-forth nature of conversations:
Try getting your child used to the back-and-forth nature of conversations. Here’s an example:
Player 1: Throws a ball while asking a question. “How’s school?”
Player 2: Catches the ball and answers the question. But before throwing the ball back, Player 2 must ask another related question. (“Good! How’s math club?”)
The goal is for your child to get comfortable having conversations.
9. Ask your child’s opinion.
Communicating requires kids to reflect on their feelings. Ask your child to weigh in on daily decisions. The conversation can be as simple as which library you should go to or where you might spend your vacation.
Ask your child’s opinion about relevant topics. Things like, “Should the other team have won?” Thinking about recent news events? Using “I think” or “I feel” statements is good practice for having successful everyday conversations.
10. Encourage your child to keep a journal..
Some kids find it easier to talk with other people once they’ve had a chance to think their thoughts through. Writing in a diary or journal about day-to-day activities and feelings may help. The process can make it easier for your child to form thoughts to share with others. This can ultimately make your child feel more prepared and confident when someone asks what’s been going on.
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.