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Ways Your Child Is Communicating With You

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

You know your child better than anyone. Yet, sometimes it can be challenging to understand what they’re thinking and why they’re behaving as they do. You rely on past experiences with the child, and some instinct. Like a detective, you notice their patterns, and you try to pick up on any signs or signals if something is wrong. But, it can seem like they are speaking their own language sometimes. Keep reading to learn about some ways your child is communicating with you even without speaking.

As adults, we sometimes have a hard time using words to express feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Children have a limited resource of words which makes using language even harder. And, the younger they are, the less words they have at their disposal. Let’s break down some main ways children are telling you how they are feeling.

  1. Body language. Instead of talking, often their body language will show you what they are feeling and thinking. Notice their posture, stance, placement of their hands. If they are withdrawn they may have their arms crossed, or be hunched over reading a book or watching television. If angry, their body may become tense, or they may take an aggressive stance. Pay attention if these things change over time, or after a certain stimulus. When your child’s body language changes, you have an opportunity to explore what may be triggering them.

  1. Interactions. Children communicate through interactions with you, their siblings, teachers and friends. It can be helpful to check in with other caregivers involved in their care if you are concerned about them. How are they acting with others? Do they become nervous or angry when around a certain individual? If so, ask your child if and why they are responding differently.

  1. Behaviors. This is likely the most obvious to parents and caregivers. Noticing how your child acts is a window into their mind. Acting out, shutting down and isolating can all be ways of telling you their needs are not being met. Are they hungry, tired, feeling lonely or bored? Helping your child identify what is driving their emotional reactions and behaviors is an important step towards correcting behaviors.

  1. Language. Listen to the words your child is saying, and the tone, volume, and pace they say them in. All of these components of speech are important in helping to identify the message they are communicating to you. Too often we get stuck on simply hearing what is said, but not listening to what they are trying to say.

Viewing these four components as forms of communication is the first step towards increased understanding of your child. By helping them identify their emotions and reactions to stimuli, caregivers can help improve emotional awareness and build their emotional vocabulary. Making sure your child feels heard and understood will improve your relationship, improve their functioning, and offer opportunity for intervention of coping skills. If you are interested in learning more, you may consider parenting consultations or individual therapy for you and your child. Therapists can assist parents and children build skills and awareness, improve communication, and implement coping strategies.

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