In a world dominated by adults, sometimes kids feel they cannot be heard. Activities that help your child express her feelings, needs and dreams can encourage her to speak up in appropriate ways. You can do this by entering her world, assuming she has something important to say and that you can learn something from it, according to psychologist Dr. Richard A. Grossman in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Stop and LIsten
Your child needs to know that you will listen to him and that you believe he and his words have value. If you don’t start this early in your child’s life, Grossman writes, your child might never get beyond the hopelessness, isolation and panic that comes when he realizes no one is listening. A 2-year-old can teach you things, so stop and focus on your child. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. You could say, “Tell me what your favorite story is and why” or “If you could be anything, what would it be?” Tell your child, "You can tell me anything and I will listen."
Sometimes children find it easier to role play or talk to an animal or toy than talk to an adult about sensitive matters, according to Ken Schwartzenberger, the founder of Play Therapy Seminars. Therapists and social workers sometimes use this technique to get children to open up about trauma or just to get a child to talk. Ask your child’s doll a question and let your child be the doll’s voice or pretend the doll is asking you questions about the child that require the child's input. Role play a situation where your child pretends to be you and you are the child. Use puppets or toys to create an opening scene and let your child choose where the activity and dialogue goes.
Older children could put their feelings and dreams on paper. Give your child a diary with a key and promise not to read it unless he asks you to. Challenge him to write stories about his life and preserve them in a binder without correcting his grammar or spelling. You could suggest that he submit some of his writings to children’s magazines such as “Stone Soup Magazine” or “Creative Kids” magazine. If he is too shy to display his writing in public, help him get a pen pal in your family or through Students of the World or the Amazing Kids! Penpals Program.
Some kids prefer to give voice through the arts. She can make crafts, play music, act in a play, dance, paint or draw. Find out what your child likes to do and help her find a creative way to do it her way. Set up a corner of your family room to display her art work. Attend her recitals and then brag about her performance where she can hear it. The more opportunities your child has to use her “voice” and have people pay attention, the more she will believe in herself, stand confident and proud, and face new challenges with courage, according to Grossman.