Building effective communication with your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted August 19 2010 11:09am
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According to our experts, the key to effective communication between you and your preschooler is active listening and providing an appropriate positive response. This may sound simple, but sometimes we forget to use these important skills with our young children.

Here are their suggestions to enhance your communication with your child:

  • Active Listening: when your child is speaking with you make sure you are:
    • Looking at your child (“what you are saying is important,” is your message)
    • Eliminate distractions (music, reading, etc)
    • Don’t interrupt (let your child finish what they are saying)
    • Summarize (what you said is…so and so….did I get it right?)
    • Let you child know that you appreciate them sharing their thoughts or concerns with you. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but if your child feels you have heard them it gives them a greater sense of connection with you and actually decreases arguments.
  • Providing an appropriate response: Sometime children will say something that upsets us, or we jump to a conclusion, or we provide a consequence to a child for something that they told us they did. These responses teach children not to communicate with us. Instead, thank your child for sharing with you and, if there is an issue, ask the child what they think would help or should be done. Children are usually pretty fair and understand right and wrong, as well as the need to “fix” things. Instead of responding to their confession with, “That was a bad thing you did, so go to your room,” you might say, “Thank you for letting me know about that. I am proud of you for telling me the truth, but now we need to do something about what you did. What do you think would be fair?”
  • Timing: If you child is in the middle of something, (watching a TV show, brushing his teeth, etc.) you should tell him that you would like to talk about something and wait for him to finish. Remember that if you are busy, or you know you have to leave in a minute, you will not be able to be an active listener.
  • Play: One of the best ways to communicate is while a child is playing a game or with a toy where he is also able to talk with you. Colouring, building blocks or puzzles are some examples. As he is enjoying his activity you can ask him about his day, what was interesting, etc.
  • Create routines: Have a “talk time” every day at the same time. You can schedule one early in the morning, at supper or just before bed, whenever you regularly have a bit of quiet time together. For young children this would only be a few minutes, but it becomes a part of their daily life to have time to communicate with you. At supper, for example, you might have each person say one thing that was good about their day and one thing that was not so good.
  • Go on an adventure: Go for a drive in the car, a hike, visit the museum or beach and talk about what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. You can even do this in your imagination and pretend you are flying in a plane and talk about what you are seeing or doing.
  • Read: Reading books to each other and talking about the story afterward is a wonderful and easy way to foster communication with your child. You can do this with TV shows or movies as well. Ask your child what they think about things that are happening. “What do you think he is feeling right now?” Why do you think she did that?” “How would you feel if they did that to you?” If you are watching a show together don’t have the communication get in the way of your child following the story. If that is happening wait and talk about it once the show is over.

Keep in mind that even if you do all these things, your child may still not want to talk with you. Pressuring children to talk will usually make them clam up even more. Talking about things that your child is interested in will help, but sometimes the key is to wait until you child initiates a discussion. When this happens make sure you are using your active listening skills.


Do you have questions about communicating with your preschooler? Ask one of our experts!

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Help! My preschooler is refusing to sleep!

by Maxine
Posted December 22 2010 03:49pm
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There are many things that can cause your child to stay awake at bedtime or to wake in the night and stay awake. Some examples are illness, digestive problems, allergies, a move to a new home, or change in child care provider and even anxiety. You may not know it, but your child could be feeling genuinely anxious about being separated from you at bedtime.

The best way to make sure that both you and your child are getting the rest you need is to establish a regular bedtime routine. It should be at the same time every night, with no rough or active play just before bed. A nice bath and bedtime story is a great way to calm your child before going to sleep.

Be gentle but firm about your child staying in bed after being put down. Encourage your child to learn to stay calm by singing and talking quietly to herself, or cuddling with a pillow or stuffed animal. Leave the room with your child awake, so he can learn how to fall asleep on his own. It's also important that while your child is falling asleep, she is not distracted by excessive noise in the home, such as loud television programs, or the sound of older brothers and sisters playing.

It's normal for your child to call out to you in the night, but you don't have to go running right away. Try calling back to him first, just to let him know you've heard the cries and are near by. If your child continues to fuss, go into the room and use your voice and presence to calm him. Instead of picking him up, pat or massage him gently.

And remember, almost every child goes through several phases of testing you to see how late they can stay up. Stay gently firm and consistent. Getting angry doesn't help ease your child into sleep.


How did you deal with a preschooler who refused to sleep? Offer your tips to other parents by leaving a comment below or ask an expert your question on this topic.


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Preschoolers and learning to share

by Maxine
Posted December 22 2010 06:41pm
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Knowing how to share is an important skill for getting along with others, but parents shouldn't expect a child to really understand "sharing" until around the age of four.

It's not surprising that it takes time to be able to share. There is a lot to learn. Children have to be able to control their impulse to grab something. They have to be able to see another child's point of view, understand time well enough to feel that it's okay to wait for what they want and be able to talk enough to sort out who gets what, and when.

Preschoolers spend a fair amount of their playtime working out who will have what, who will do what and who can play. This is normal - it's how they practice the social skills needed for friendships. At this stage, children are better able to exchange both ideas and toys. They like to give and take.

If by age four your child still doesn't cooperate with others, and is hostile, it's best to get some help. Consult your child's physician for referrals to appropriate family services in your area.


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Nightmares and Night Terrors

by Maxine
Posted September 5 2011 03:21pm
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Getting your child to sleep when they are young can be challenging enough, but when your child is awakened by nightmares or night terrors it can be a really scary and stressful situation for both parent and child.

"One of the major challenges for parents whose child is having nightmares or night terrors is figuring out which is which and then what to do about them," says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. "A nightmare is a scary dream that happens when the child is in a period of light sleep. They usually happen during the second half of the night and children often tell their parents that they felt they were about to be in danger. A night terror is an intense dream that happens as the child moves from deep to lighter sleep and usually happens about 1-2 hours after the child falls asleep."

Between 5-15 per cent of children will have nightmares or night terrors and they generally happen between 18 months and 15 years, but they can occur in infants too. They are most common from ages 2 to 6. Night terrors tend to run in families, so if you or your partner had night terrors your child is more likely to experience them.

What your child fears in his sleep may vary based on his age. For example, a lot of 2-year-olds seem to be afraid that Mom or Dad will leave them and a lot of 3-year-olds develop fears of monsters or animals. Real-life things can cause nightmares, too, like seeing parents argue, starting daycare or seeing a scary television show or movie. Anything a child finds upsetting could cause a nightmare. Some experts speculate that nightmares are caused by the child trying to work through the scary situation while he sleeps.

When a nightmare strikes your child will be fearful and distressed – those are the times when they call out or cry for you in the night. Your child will be aware of you and can be comforted. With a night terror your child might experience fear or anger, thrashing or screaming – he may appear to be awake, but is not. He may even become more agitated if you intervene. Both can be scary for parents and even more so for your child.

"With a nightmare, your child will likely remember some of the scary dream that he had and, if he’s old enough, he might want to talk about it," says Foster. "With a night terror the child usually doesn’t remember the dream or anything he did during it. He will likely go back to sleep quickly, whereas a child who has had a nightmare may have trouble getting back to sleep and will want your comfort and reassurance."

If nightmares occur frequently, your child may start to fear going to bed and have difficulty falling asleep. Your child also may want to sleep in your bed. He may not even want to go on a sleepover, for fear of having a nightmare in front of friends. And if your child is getting less sleep than needed, he may be irritable and moody. You, too, will probably suffer from lack of sleep, because you are being woken by your child.

If your child is losing a lot of sleep, or beginning to avoid sleeping or any other activities she used to enjoy, consult your child's physician about any possible medical reason for the nightmares. You should always consult your health care provider if your child is having night terrors.

Learn how to cope with and prevent about Nightmares and Night Terrors.

Has your child ever had a nightmare or night terror? How did you cope? Share your experience with other parents in the comments section below!

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