How to talk to your child

This article was first published in April 2020

Talking to your child is, of course, something that happens every day. But as Child Psychologist Dr Claire Halsey explains to families in our videos, some simple ways of communicating can really encourage children to express their feelings, listen and cooperate. She has lots of tips to help you get started.

How to talk to your child so they tell you how they are feeling

Talking about their feelings is good for children’s emotional wellbeing, and builds the empathy that helps them to make friends.

Claire’s tips

  • Listen well to your child by removing distractions, getting down to their level, and making eye contact. Acknowledge what they say.

  • Label your feelings by drawing faces that express different emotions, and talking about the feelings they show.

  • Try to spend some one-on-one time with your child daily, even if it’s in short bursts.

  • When you’re playing or doing a task together, you can try ‘sideways listening’ by having a relaxed chat.

How to talk to your child so they listen and cooperate

The way you talk to your child can really help them to listen and cooperate, a skill they’ll need at school.

Claire’s tips

  • Wait until you have your child’s attention before speaking to them, making sure you’re close enough and on their level.

  • Giving your child choices (for example between two snacks) will help them to cooperate and give them a sense of control, which can help later with independence and problem-solving. Try to avoid yes/no questions.

  • Use descriptive praise, so your child knows why you’re impressed and that it’s genuine. It’s best to celebrate the effort they have made, rather than them winning a game or getting full marks.

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