Self-expression is one of the most important aspects of child development. It is important that a child is able to express what he/she wants or how he/she feels. This normally stems from them growing up in an environment of respect and love. If these two elements are lacking in their environment, they run the risk of not being able to open up to others. This in turn could lead to their inability to open up to others. As they get older this may begin to affect them mentally and emotionally.
If a child finds it challenging to express him/herself, they will generally tend to conform to whichever environment or situation they find themselves in. Such a character trait has shown to have an adverse effect on their self-esteem, often times leading to depression and unhappiness.
We know that the better the relationship you have with your child, the easier it is to communicate with each other about almost anything. This can be considered the first rule in the book – Nurturing 101.
Constant communication with your child will, without a doubt, improve your child’s communication skills and subsequently his/ her self-expression.
But, let’s face it, we have 1001 other things to do in the day, so not possible to have a communicatorthon with your child daily. So, what other things can be done to help the cause?
We’ve listed 3 great tips below to nudge you in the right direction.
Expression through play
A great way for your child to learn to express him/herself is by seeking out or creating opportunities for them to play with other children. This might be by way of sports or other extra-curricular activities. Through such activities, your child will different skills where they will also have to express themselves to achieve them e.g. teamwork, mutual respect.
Card and board games can also be used to achieve the same objective. Rules are explained, turns are taken, moves are justified etc.
There are a number of scenarios or opportunities that can be created, serve the same purpose as long as it is controlled and safe for your child. Heck, even the television can take its place at this table, but best to be watched with your child in order for there to be an interactive aspect to the activity. If not, it becomes one-sided, with the child just watching.
As your child becomes more aware of his/her options, they may not always agree with what you put before them or your humble suggestions. This shouldn’t lead to world war 3 at home, as this can be a great sign of your child beginning to express their preferences. Their preferences may not always be the most ideal or optimal e.g. wanting to wear those pretty pink shorts and that flower-patterned spaghetti top you bought over summer, in winter. This might even test your nerves a bit, as you try to get him/ her ready for nursery on time. But with a bit of dialogue, you should both be able to reach a decision you can both live with!
As your child moves through the different stages of development, you should start to give them that option - which book to read, which type of toy. You may end up conceding but not without a healthy discussion as to why. This way, even if your child gets their choice, he/she will be able to learn from experience. This, in turn, will go a long way in shaping their understanding of themselves. Mind you, as already noted above, Nurturing 101 would have either been completed or still in the process, so healthy dialogue will also help shape your child’s choices.
Encourage input from your child
It’s easy to think that they are just children – what do they know? Then disregard their opinions, especially when it comes to matters concerning them. But if you really do heave your child’s best interests at heart, you should at least hear them out. You might just be surprised. Yes, they might want to go to dance club B, because all their friends go there, even though dance club A might actually be the better option. But seriously, unless your child is actually showing signs of a potential dancer, best to put them in a place where they will actually have fun and feel more comfortable – and where best, than amongst friends.
As your child continues to develop, he/she may have other preferences/interests entirely different to what you want for them. Rather than butting heads with your child, help guide his/her decisions – do the research together and come up with a few mutually agreeable options. Let your child be a part of the decision-making process.
In addition to the above, always try to show support, understanding and appreciation. Let your child know that they can come to you whenever they want. If they feel listened to, appreciated and supported, they will always make a beeline for you.
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