Frequent parent-child conversations help

Kump Education Center volunteers and teachers at Midland Elementary School are preparing for a transition to a kindergarten workshop for parents and their children May 9. The literature we have been studying says the best thing a parent can do to help a child for school is to talk often with the child.

Frequent parent-child conversations help develop a child’s vocabulary. Children learn new words in context when they talk with an adult, and children who talk with educated parents start school with a much larger vocabulary than those who do not have this opportunity. An early advantage in the number of vocabulary words a child knows in kindergarten predicts their reading level by third grade and their success on the SAT.

Meaningful conversations also help a child understand cognitive relationships between concepts in context. Prepositional phrases like on the table or in the box become clear if parents and children talk while they cook or work together. Parents also help children learn sequencing when they talk about what will happen before or after lunch,

The child who is allowed to help parents plan meals and other shared activities has significant emotional advantages over those who have no say in what the family does next. Researchers have found that human beings have three significant emotional needs:

1. Affiliation, 2. Influence and 3. Achievement. (Schmuck, R. & P. Schmuck. Group Process in the Classroom, 7th ed. Dubuque, IA: Brown & Benchmark, 1997).

Affiliation, the first emotional need, is the desire to belong to a group. The family is the first personal affiliation that children experience. If they do not feel a part of that first group relationship, children are emotionally disadvantaged.

Influence, the next need, is to have some say in what the group will do. Infants only can have influence by crying, but as a child develops, he or she should gain skills in expressing influence over what the family will do next.

Achievement, the third need, means that the individual contributes to the group noticeably. Helping to cook a meal or plan a family event are real achievements and other successes will follow.

Talking with your child is the best way to prepare for any transitions, and it may have a far- reaching effect over their future relationships and sense of wellbeing throughout life.