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Q

How do I get my child to initate and engage in conversation?

Question: My son is a smart boy. He does well in school. He knows the answers to the weekly questions. However, socially he is shy and reserved. During recess, he wanders from group to group, lingering in the background, afraid to join a group or to start a conversation. How can I get him to approach another boy and to start a conversation?

A

Answered by

Yitzchok I. Schalfrig CCC, SLP

With just bit of awareness and a few simple tips, parents can really help their child start a conversation, and provide the child with the feeling that the child also an integral part of the social fabric within his or her environment.

Parents do not need to act as therapists and they do not necessarily need to be skilled in making conversation, in order to help their child start a conversation. They should simply show the child how it’s done, role play it with siblings or spouse, and practice the skills with the child repeatedly.

First, the child needs to show interest in the conversation by making eye contact, by smiling, by asking a question, or by making a comment. Children should be shown how to look at the person, to smile and greet, such as “Good morning! How are you? What’s doing? What’s news? Parents should use phrases that are used at your child’s particular school. In a Yiddish speaking school, a parent may want to model a question such as “Vus iz Neias?”Showing interest in others by asking questions relevant to the child’s conversational partner is also a great way to start a conversation. For example, “How was your sister’s wedding last night?”, or “How did you spend your time on Shabbos afternoon?” Other interest questions could focus on

Showing interest in others by asking questions relevant to the child’s conversational partner is also a great way to start a conversation. For example, “How was your sister’s wedding last night?”, or “How did you spend your time on Shabbos afternoon?” Other interest questions could focus on yomim tovim. “What will you dress up as, on Purim?”, or “What did your mother already clean for Pesach?”

A comment could include a compliment, such as “I like your new jacket”, “you did very well today at the farher.” or something like “You look very happy today”. Parents are encouraged to inform their children about current events, politics, family occasions at their age level. This provides them with material to start

“You look very happy today”.

Parents are encouraged to inform their children about current events, politics, family occasions at their age level. This provides them with material to start conversation. For example, a child may start off with “My father told me that President Trump went to Israel”, or “Did you hear that the Yeshiva is making a Melave Malka?” “My first cousin was engaged to the Menahel’s son”.

The parent’s role is to model such exchanges to the child many times, and then role playing these exchanges with siblings or spouses. The child needs to be exposed to these give and takes, and needs to be able to practice them in a non threatening environment. By observing how siblings are using conversation starters that “work”, and by practicing them repeatedly at home, the child will have an easier time trying them at school.

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