It’s something that comes naturally for some, but for others, the art of conversation makes them want to crawl into a ball and never leave the house.
The same goes for shy children. Talking to people they don’t know well, or family members they hardly see can be challenging.
Here are five tips to help your children become confident when making conversation.
Start small without putting too much pressure on your child. Smiling, making eye contact and saying "Hi", with the person’s name is the first step. Roleplaying this beforehand can help children become more comfortable interacting with others.
Have answers prepared
A common question most people start with, is "How are you?" Teach your children to have some answers prepared using this simple formula: “Great”, plus one fact.
“How are you?”
“Great! I’m looking forward to seeing Beauty and the Beast this weekend.”
“Great! In Math, we’re learning our times tables.”
Great conversationalists get the other person talking. Teach your child to ask open-ended questions starting with "how" and "what" to avoid people replying with yes or no answers.
Remind them not to hog the conversation.
No one likes to be around someone who talks about themselves non-stop. Teach children that a conversation can be like a game of catch. Once you catch the ball, you throw it back. Interrupting can also be a problem with young children. Remind little ones to wait for appropriate breaks or to say, “excuse me” if something is urgent.
Children learn a lot from adults when they model appropriate behaviour. It also helps if parents can prompt their children. For example, you could say: “Tom, if I’m speaking to someone you need to say ‘Excuse me’, and then wait until I’m ready to listen.”
Or, “Sally, say hello to grandpa.”