I was an only child. I didn’t have any young kids around. This is an unusual situation.
You might expect talking to children to be a skill that would come naturally to parents, but according to most parenting advice experts, lack of communication is one of the most serious and epidemic parenting problems today.
Many parents actually lack the skill to discuss difficult problems with their kids. Whether they’re trying to talk to children about death and dying, about safety, or about all the issues that occur when kids grow up, these parents often make common and serious mistakes.
They oversimplify, don’t go into enough detail, or assume that the kids know more than they may actually know.
Talking to kids is a complicated process because it involves such a delicate balance of different skills.
On the one hand, you can’t talk down to children. When you are talking to kids, they understand your tone of voice and what it means about your attitude towards them better than they may understand what you’re saying. Kids are smart even if they aren’t always knowledgeable.
If you patronize them or don’t take enough time to try to understand their perspectives, you will lose them. They won’t listen to your opinions and advice, and may do exactly the opposite of what you suggest.
On the other hand, when you talk to children you can’t assume they are too knowledgeable are comfortable with the subject. You have to start basic and make sure the kids get it every step of the way. You also should avoid talking to children about things that may upset them unless it is absolutely necessary at the time.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss death with your kids or talk about drug abuse with a child, but keep in mind that you can expose your kids do something they hadn’t thought of before just by discussing it. Sometimes, by discussing a difficult and dangerous issues, you might actually be doing more harm than good.
In some ways, talking to preschool children is the hardest type of parenting communication. When you’re talking to children who are a little bit older, you can make certain assumptions.
They won’t take everything you say completely literally, and will understand the subtext. When they don’t get things, they’re likely to ask questions. When you talk to preschool age children, however, you can’t make any of these assumptions. That is why you have to spell everything out – particularly if the issue is important.
If you’re talking to children about how to deal with strangers, for example, you have to spell out that they are not allowed to talk to them. Your preschoolers won’t have the knowledge or experience to know when it is and when it isn’t appropriate to talk to adults, so you have to give them clear rules that they will understand.
More on talking with kids