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Communication Strategies


  • Ask questions and encourage your child to ask questions.


  • Often communication blunders are due to one or the other person in the conversation making assumptions regarding the meaning behind the words. Double check with questioning when you think that might be the case.


  • Listen skillfully. Give your child time to get their thoughts together. Do not fill the empty space or multi-task while your child is trying to communicate with you. Give them your full attention and be patient.


  • A very large percentage of what we communicate comes from our non-verbal cues. Your child’s body language is as important as the words they are saying. Help them understand how to read body language. Again, use questions to find out what your child might be trying to communicate if their language and body language is incongruent.


  • “This is what I heard you say…is that what you meant?” Use reflective listening to help your child find the specific language they need to communicate their needs, thoughts and ideas.


  • Set aside time during the day to listen to your child. You can use the ride home from school, or hang out together for a bit before homework starts. I like to make it a point to watch the sunset together in our backyard and just chat.


  • “I am strong enough to hear whatever you have to tell me.” Your child needs to know that it is safe to tell you anything and that by doing so, he/she learns they can trust you as an ally and a mentor for working through the hard problems in life.


  • Encourage your child to eliminate “can’t” from their vocabulary.  Usually “can’t” means I am overwhelmed, and I don’t think I have the skills or abilities to tackle that problem at this point. Help your child break down the problem to smaller pieces and identify the specific skill or ability they are feeling they need help in. Then encourage your child to identify strategies for improving that skill or ability.


  • Let your child know that their input is valid and valued.  However, emphasize that the manner in which opinions and information are presented will be essential in getting a point across.


  • Model and encourage good communication skills.


    • Taking turns in a conversation
    • Making appropriate eye contact
    • Mindfulness regarding making assumptions
    • Validation the other person’s point “I hear what you are saying…”
    • Recapping the conversation “this is what I got out of what you said…”
    • Asking clarifying questions
    • Giving positive feedback
    • How to enter and exit a conversation appropriately
    • Being mindful of interrupting (a good strategy is to write down your question or comment and wait for an opening to jump in.)


  • Eye contact is a very powerful communication tool. To a child who is emotionally sensitive, it can sometimes be overwhelming, thus they avoid eye contact. Do not force your child to make eye contact when you are admonishing them. Talk to your child about the power of eye contact and avoiding eye contact. Help them learn how to harness the power of eye contact in a way that is comfortable for them. For example, focusing on the space between the eyes, or the eyebrows, etc. of the person they are talking to, especially if it is someone they have just met.


  • Children with language deficits oftentimes search for the “right” word only to find it is not the right one after all.  Be ready to ask your child to clarify “what you thought you heard”.  You might be surprised what was really intended.


  • Eliminate the phrase “try harder” from your vocabulary.  Encourage your child to “work smarter” and ask them what they need and how you can help.


  • Ask your child to paraphrase spoken directions or instructions.  Likewise, if you are in a lecturing mode, pause every few minutes and ask your child to paraphrase what they thought you said.  Explore utilizing written, verbal, or hands-on strategies when giving instructions.


  • Ask your child to interpret or translate any written instructions or directions.  This insures understanding before beginning a task.


  • Assist your child in working on their tone of voice.  Often young people don’t recognize when their tone of voice can be annoying or offensive.  Use video or movie clip examples to help them understand how a negative tone of voice can impact their interactions with other people.


For more information or specific information regarding your child’s communication issues contact our Family Support and Alumni Cultivator, Dr. Liz Simpson (Liz@soarnc.org).