How to talk to kids

Kids often seem locked in their own world, or buffeted by a hundred different distractions, so actually holding a conversation with them can be an achievement.

Still, we all try to do it, with varying success.
It's a two-way street

Here are some tips for better parent-child communication:
Talk, don't shout. Shouting is a loss of self-control and it encourages your kids to shout back.
Take care to listen: not just what they say, but what they're trying to get across. They may feel nervous about saying something and you may need to 'read between the lines'. For example if they're unhappy at school, but are afraid of speaking out.
Have meals together where you talk about things, rather than watching TV.
Answer questions patiently and fully, even when the subject may be sensitive, such as questions about sex. Children realise at a young age when adults are hiding things from them. They need to trust you to be open with them.

Confidence boosting
How you talk to your kids can shake their world, so take care to treat them kindly:
Praise them when they get something right and maybe explain why you're pleased - "You couldn't do that last week, but now you can!"
Ask your kids about what they've learned at school. They will remember it better if they're able to explain it to you. Go through the work with them if they don't seem to understand it.
Try to stop brothers or sisters (especially older ones) criticising their siblings or telling them that they're stupid. Younger siblings may need more confidence building if they're on the sharp end of this behaviour.

Make it real
Subjects that kids study at school can seem distant or boring. Look for real life situations where you can talk about schoolwork. For example:
Watch films based on books that they are studying.
Try to speak a foreign language if you're on holiday abroad.
Add up the bill when you're out shopping.
Point out the relevance of TV programmes to school subjects.

For more ideas, have a look at Little Darlings: Good parenting through good communication, published by Channel 4.