Here are 5 ways to help you create an environment of healthy dialogue with your kids.
Most parents want their children to succeed — in school, in work, in their various extracurricular activities. And there’s an overwhelming number of tips and products available to help parents toward that goal. But we often overlook one of the most effective tools for enhancing childhood brain development. It’s simple, inexpensive, and even enjoyable. And you have this tool at your disposal right now. That tool is conversation.
Conversation and Childhood Brain Development
We’ve long known that speaking to your children is good for them developmentally. The more words a child hears, the better his or her brain development and language skills will be, which contributes to success in many areas of life. But there’s more to this story: Recent research from Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania shows that a child’s brain develops best through regular, back-and-forth exchanges of ideas. In the study, children who engaged in regular conversations with parents showed significant enhancement in the language processing areas of their brains.
Our culture of endless distractions and demands can make regular, two-way conversations difficult. But your kids’ healthy development may very well depend on your ability to minimize such distractions, switch off the screens, and connect with your children.
Five Ways You Can Have a Conversation With Your Kids
Here are five ways to help you nurture an environment of conversation with your kids:
Be intentional by scheduling one-on-one time, especially if you have multiple kids. But remember that many of the best conversations happen in the margins of life. Use every opportunity to chat: in the car, at the dinner table, at bedtime. Walks, bike rides, and standing in line at the store are all good times for conversations.
Learn about your children’s interests and help them learn more about you. Give the “quiet” kids opportunities to be known. Sometimes they become more talkative when they feel someone is truly interested in what they have to say. Encourage them to talk about things they like or things that relate to what they’re learning in school.
This takes effort and intentionality. I’m not always the best at listening, so when my thoughts begin to wander, I need to visualize myself pressing a mental pause button in order to enter their world.
While too many questions can feel like an interrogation, authentic interaction when asking those questions conveys genuine interest, as do eye contact and other nonverbal cues.
Children feel valued when you remember things they’ve said, and they’ll start to see conversations with you as memorable and enjoyable. And that’s a gift with lasting impact.
Employing these five strategies to having conversations with your kids will significantly help in their brain development and shows intentionality as a parent. Intentionality is one of the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting. How much of an intentional parent are you? Take the FREE parenting assessment to find out.
© 2021 Focus on the Family. This article first appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Focus on the Family magazine as “Conversation: It Does a Brain Good.” Used by permission. All rights reserved.