Being able to build positive relationships with others helps children and young people to gain the most from being in school and is important to ensure the communication of information between children and the adults responsible for them. We are more likely to build a positive relationship with someone when we can communicate effectively with them.
Effective communication is a way of setting boundaries so everyone knows what is expected of them. Most disagreements and conflicts are caused by a breakdown in communication.
Children learn how to build relationships with others by watching and copying the relationships between the adults around them. It is, therefore, important to show effective communication skills when dealing with others and take care with what we say and the way we act when in stressful situations. Children can become confused if we ask them to behave one way and then show them contradictory behaviour which can make it harder for them to understand rules and boundaries.
It is important to communicate in a way that relates to the age and interests of the child, young person or adult. If others are comfortable with us we are more likely to communicate effectively. The main principles of relationship building are:
Showing respect – it is important to listen carefully to others’ point of view and show you are paying attention to them when they are speaking
Being considerate – consider circumstances which may cause stress or upset and affect behaviour at any given time
Taking time to listen – show interest in what is being said and respond appropriately, offering advice if requested
Being clear – make sure any information or instructions are clear and understood, and made in a way suitable for age / ability / circumstances
It can be necessary to adapt your communication style depending on the situation. Professionally a more formal style may be required for meetings with colleagues and parents or other adults involved with the school.
Cultural differences can also affect communication. Certain behaviours such as eye contact or physical contact, e.g. shaking hands, can be forbidden. Certain gestures or body language may be offensive in some cultures and it is important to be aware of these issues when communicating with people from these cultures.
If children do not feel their contribution to a conversation is valued they are less likely to initiate further communication. To help them have this confidence you need to:
Give them opportunity to speak and express their own opinions
Make eye contact and show you are actively listening and paying attention. If you are looking away or doing something else at the same time children will feel you are not interested in what they are saying
Make sure you are approachable. This can best be done by getting down to the child’s level, if they need to look up to speak to you they are more likely to feel uncomfortable. Smiling and reacting positively to what they are saying also helps improve their confidence in you and in their communication skills
Maintain the conversation by reacting and questioning. This teaches children the ‘rules’ of communication and helps them to develop an understanding of how to communicate effectively
Children of different ages will need different levels of attention and encouragement with communication. Younger children may lack confidence and need more reassurance, both vocal and physical, to be sure of their ability to communicate one to one or in group situations.
It is important to match your language to the age of the child you are communicating with. If the words used are too difficult or unknown to the child they will have difficulty understanding and participating in the conversation. Too simplistic, in either words or delivery, and the child / young person may feel patronised and annoyed by your attempts to communicate and...
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