Why Some Kids Have Trouble Making Conversation

By The Understood Team
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At a Glance

  • Some kids have a hard time talking with other people.

  • There are many reasons kids might struggle with conversation.

  • Trouble making conversation can take a toll on self-esteem.

Plenty of people don’t love making conversation, especially small talk. Some think they’re “bad” at it. Some are shy. But as long as they pick up on social cues, follow what people are saying, and talk in a way that makes sense, most do just fine.

Not everyone has those skills, however. Some people, including kids, really do struggle with talking to other people.

For young kids, trouble with conversation can be a matter of development. Kids develop at different rates, and some just need a little more time than others to gain the language and social skills needed to make conversation.

But what about kids who still don’t have those skills long after their peers have developed them?

Learn why some kids have trouble making conversation.

Social Skills Challenges

If you have strong social skills, you may not even realize you’re using them when you make conversation. You just naturally understand how people feel about what you’re saying by their body language and tone of voice.

You can tell when it’s time to stop talking, and when not to tell a joke. And you recognize when the people you’re talking with want to end the conversation.

You also know the unspoken social rules of talking with other people. You don’t jump in and interrupt them. You don’t ask inappropriate questions. And you don’t hog the conversation.

Most kids forget those rules and miss social cues once in a while. But when kids have trouble with social skills, that can happen a lot. They don’t have the tools they need to have successful conversations.

Difficulty With Language Skills

When your child says something in conversation, does it tend to be logical and easy to follow? Or do you spend a lot of time saying, “What do you mean?” or “I don’t understand.”  

All kids sometimes use the wrong words or say things that don’t make sense. They may feel so passionate about the topic that they talk faster than they can think. If they’re not paying attention to the conversation, they may chime in with something out of left field.

But kids who do that a lot may be struggling with spoken language, whether they’re doing the talking or the listening. They may have trouble finding the words they want to use or using them in the right way. They might also have a hard time processing what other people are saying.

Impulsivity

People sometimes think that impulsivity is about physical action. But it can also impact how kids interact with others and participate in conversation.

They might be so excited about the topic or an idea they want to share that they don’t wait their turn to talk. Or they say what pops into their mind without thinking about how others may react. Learn more about impulsivity in kids.

There are a few other reasons why kids have difficulty with conversations. Anxiety is one. Being slower at processing and responding to information is another.

No matter what’s causing it, trouble making conversation can have a big impact on a child’s self-esteem. It can also make it hard to fit in and make friends. And it can make kids targets for bullying.

There are many ways to help kids improve conversation skills. If your child is struggling, knowing why lets you find the best ways to help. Talk with your child’s teacher about what you’re seeing, and find out what’s going on in the classroom. You can even request a free evaluation at school.

Discover strategies for building social skills, like role-playing. Explore ways to improve your child’s self-esteem. And learn what to do if your child is being bullied at school.

Key Takeaways

  • Trouble with social skills or language skills are common reasons kids struggle with conversation.

  • Being impulsive can also affect conversation skills.

  • Knowing why your child is having trouble helps you figure out how to support your child.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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