Communication: Parent-to-Parent Communication

Parenting is messy. Communicating with your little one is messy. And parenting, in a shared space with other parents, can be especially messy. In my early years of motherhood, I spent most of my days with a group of several other stay-at-home moms. We would essentially say “when & where are we meeting at 10AM?” Then we would all show up, with coffee in hand, and hang out for a few hours before naptime. It was glorious!

But in the beginning, I found it awkward to parent at the same time as they were parenting. We all agreed that we could ‘parent one another’s kids’ if we saw an interaction where we needed to intervene. However, we did not all parent with the same strategies, so sometimes I would get insecure if I was interacting with their child. I found it really helpful to have a conversation with the other moms about how they would want me to address x, y or z when communicating with their child. I extremely value being around other mamas, specifically mamas who might do things differently than me, so I wanted to enhance that diversity - not squash it. This conversation really helped!

Whether you find yourself in those first 2 years in playgroups with other mamas, at the playground with elementary kiddos or navigating teen friendships with mamas of other teens, communication between parents is so important. Though you might feel awkward at the onset, do not be afraid to ask other caregivers/parents to set boundaries or troubleshoot reoccurring issues.

It truly takes a village to raise the next generation so even as we have intentional dialogue with our partners, we can have intentional conversations with other parents out there, too!

Communication: Partner Communication

There is nothing quite like parenthood that will reveal if you have healthy communication patterns with your partner. Time, space and freedom becomes even more valuable commodities once a little one joins the family. We wanted to offer a few tips about partner communication, especially during those early years with little ones.

One of the things that has been most helpful for my family, is to have a ‘housekeeping’ meeting once a week. On Sunday nights, we pull out our calendars, share our to-do lists, express our desires for self care, etc and do our best to fit it all in. It is during this time that we assign who will be doing school drop offs/pick ups, which of us will attend the therapies and who is making what for dinner. As you add children to the family, the tasks begin to pile up and we have found it really helpful to have a set time to plan out our family activities and responsibilities.

Another thing that we * try * to implement twice a month is a date night. The housekeeping meetings are nice but they are anything but romantic. We like to reserve space twice a month for just us. Even if we want the activity to be spontaneously decided, we assign the nights ahead of time to make sure that they happen!

Lastly, we have learned over the years to express our needs, rather than expecting one another to guess the need. I like to go to the gym -or fit in a workout of some kind - every day. My husband likes to have time in the morning to read and drink coffee. We make sure that we express our desires so that they can come to fruition. We spent the first few years of our marriage not sharing them and hoping the other partner would guess. This lead to frustration and disappointment. We’ve found it’s so much easier (and rewarding) to just share our needs!

If you can, think through the areas where you and your partner experience the most frustration. As you reflect, perhaps you can put some rhythms in place that will enable you to bypass those frustrations in the future!

Communication: 3 - 5 years old

By now, your little one likely has grown in their vocabulary and sentence structure. Now comes the challenge of helping them learn how to communicate with kindness, how to communicate in social settings and also how to communicate their displeasure.

This is a great time to teach your kiddos how to introduce themselves to people they have not met. You can teach them to give eye contact when speaking with someone and also how to shake hands if they are just meeting. This is also a great time to teach how to wait to speak if you are interested in your child knowing how to have a back & forth conversation. Here are a few tricks:

  • have your child put their hand on your arm or leg if they have something to say. Then, place our hand over their hand so they know you are going to address them.

  • if they are constantly interrupting you, pause your sentence and say “John, I hear that you want to tell me something. I’m going to finish this story with Samantha and then I am so excited to hear what you have to say!”

  • once it is their turn to speak, if they waited patiently, praise them for waiting so kindly! Then allow them to take a turn to tell a story.

This is also a time to begin teaching kiddos how to communicate with one another. This can be awkward for caregivers at time but we believe it is so helpful to them in the long run! If your kiddo comes over and says “Sam is mean!!” You can say “oh buddy, I’m sorry. It sounds like your feelings were hurt. Can you share with me what happened.” “Let’s go talk to Sam and see if we can understand where he was coming from, etc.”

Kiddos need our help to put words to their experiences and this is a great season where we get to do that. Good luck, Mamas & Papas, you are stewarding precious little ones!

Communication: 2 years old

“Just wait for the ‘terrible two’s’”, people say. There is some truth to that, for sure, because the 2-3 year range can be pretty challenging. However, there are also some delightful aspects of two year olds that we think get under-regarded!

The minds of two year olds are rapidly expanding and their vocabulary is often exploding! Even as I’m typing a two year old is asking me about the world and expressing his imagination! This is the age they can begin to ask questions and even use a few word sentences. We can either be frustrated by their constant ‘nagging for our attention’ or we can receive this stage and engage with them as they are learning.

This is a great time to (continue to) read books with your little one. Ideally, you will have been reading the same books over the past two years so hopefully you can pause and let your little one fill in the words they know by now!

You can also incorporate music into their language at this age. Try to imitate the sound of a car as it zooms by. Then make the sound of a train. And an ambulance. You can also incorporate barns into this phase and teach kiddos the sounds of various animals!

Continue to help your child learn to attend to a task (stay with a specific task) for longer periods of time. Engage with them in games and see if you can extend the period of time they stay in tune with you. Most of all, try to have some fun!!

Communication: 12-18 months

Twelve to eighteen months old is a time where your little one’s communication is really starting to take off! This is a time to really invest in communicating with your little one and help them identify the objects they want to talk about. As they point at objects, make grunting noises while looking in a direction, etc you can take those opportunities to narrate what they are interested in! You can say “oh I see that big tree. That tree is big. That tree has leaves.” etc. Try to stay with them on whatever topic for as long as they are engaged. When they switch to point to something else, you can begin to narrate that instead.

If possible, try to use the same words for the things you talk about: cup, potty, mama, dada, tree, light, etc. If you are giving directions, ideally you can give them in short two word phrases so they can begin to pick up on these as well!

Toddlers this age also enjoy mirroring and playing games with their caregiver. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Peek-a-boo

  • Pat-a-cake

  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

You can sing the words to this song or game and then pause to see if they will finish the song or do the motion.

This is also a great age to start modeling pretend play! You can pretend to put on your shoes, mix up cake batter in a bowl, talk on the phone, etc. Again, we are not speech pathologists or therapists but we wanted to share some ideas to get you started communicating with this age!

Communication: 6-12 months

The six to twelve month time frame is when babies communication becomes even more fun! Even if they are not babbling a ton, they are now able to hear and process so many words/sounds! They will begin to turn their heads towards noise, recognize words and begin to babble (gaga, baba, dada, etc). This is also usually when the fight for who gets their name said first (mama or dada) begins!!

Your little one is beginning to understand cause/effect and this can lead to a greater understanding that they have a voice and can use it to cause things to happen! It becomes even more important for the mom/dad/caregiver to label things (ball, water, milk, more, please, all done, etc) so the little one can begin to make word associations with actions and items.

As they near 12 months, you can begin playing peek-a-boo and singing familiar songs. You can take pause during part of the song or game and see if your little one will make a noise to tell you they want to keep playing. Then you can resume the song or game and take pause a few minutes later. This all teaches them how to engage and communicate!

This is also the time that you can begin to teach sign language (if you choose) if your little one is not as verbal. You can show them that rather than just crying, they can make a calm gesture and receive what they are looking for. Often, teaching word associations or baby sign language can decrease the amount of whining and fussing you hear.

Lastly, this is a great time to practice narration. As you are making breakfast or washing dishes, etc you can narrate your own behavior in short phrases so your little one learns more vocabulary. It can feel odd but it is a great way to get your little one exposure to a variety of words!