In a culture where staring at your mobile has become a way of life, conversations are in danger of becoming a dying art. We’d rarely converse with anyone at a bus stop any more, or someone seated next to us. (An interesting view on the subject here which although a few years old is still pertinent to today)
But perhaps of more concern is the fact that this can also be true within families where it’s sometimes hard to communicate, especially on emotive issues, face to face if you’re not in the habit of it.
Does this matter?
Certainly, for not only does it impact on relationships within families, it also impacts on attainment. As conversation plays an important role in educational achievement, social competence, as well as mental and emotional well-being, all of which are needed for kids to progress and mature into functioning adults.
The simple truth is that the more conversations children are engaged in the more they’re exercising their learning brain. Consequently they extend their vocabulary and language skills. In turn this develops other skills which promote intelligence like observation, questioning, hypothesising, problem solving, independence, respect, as well as the ability to express their emotions. And the more skilled they become at conversing the more their confidence grows.
Part of our role as parents or educators is to use any opportunities we can to promote conversation, whatever it’s about. And Dr Kathryn Weston, writing in the Huffington Post, suggests ten questions that will help do that.
Simple things you might try to boost conversational skills are:
- Encourage a habit of observing and commenting whether it’s on what you’re seeing, what you’re doing, where you’re going, whatever. The talking is more important than the subject matter.
- Encourage them to have ideas about things; hypothesise through questions like what if, or what do you think, why..? etc
- Ask about their preferences, how they’re feeling, encouraging comments and responses to events whether in your life or current affairs for example
- Try and establish times to be all together to do this. Shared meal times are often cited as the usual occasion. It could equally be travel times, during errands, walking, bedtimes.
- Build their confidence in conversing by listening and responding positively – an act of respect that is mutual.
Learning is increasingly taking place online. But face to face conversations provide an essential part of it, and of personal development, whether family or class based, which is irreplaceable.
Being able to express yourself and your ideas about things through conversation is a skill our youngsters need. And one which can make them stand out when it comes to those important interviews later in life.