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Communicating With Kids

Imagine the scene, we are having a family day of pottering. I am busy researching some bits on the computer, my partner is busy in the kitchen and my 10 year old step daughter, Megan, is working through a "Reasoning Work Book", her choice not ours.

She is looking at spot the difference and is busy writing her answers down to a variety of questions.

All is calm................as we go through the answers there are some she has got wrong. The pencil gets slammed into the table, picked up again, a huff, then a sigh. We carry on and she gets a whole page wrong...........another huff a bigger sigh, tears, frustration, anger.

Sound familiar?

I stop what I am doing and stop myself from saying "hey what on earth is the matter, it's just a test".

I go for labelling the emotion rather than the actions and say;

" You seem frustrated and angry at getting some of the questions wrong".

No reply, lots of tears.

"What exactly is making you so frustrated?", I say, I am also struggling a bit to understand. We had only recently had a conversation about sats where Megan had said with real gusto she wasn't worried about them and why did everyone keep asking her if she was worried?.

She sobs louder, so much so that Custard, our slightly challenged Pug comes over to see what to the noise is about.

"I can't do them", she says picking Custard up and holding him tightly to her chest". "I don't understand".

I can see this is important to her. "Mmm, let's have a look. You got most of them right......" I say and am about to continue as she cuts across me, " I got a whole page wrong", the crying starts again. 

The conversation continues, I listen with all my conscious being, struggling to quiet the voice inside my head that wants to take the pain away, tell her it doesn't matter and give her the solution. This isn't about me and my ideas it's about Megan and her working out what is making her so frustrated and sad. 

I point  out some logic to her, "you told me earlier the book you are using is for year 6 honey and you are year 5".  

I see a light bulb moment and can see her thinking this over. "Yes", she says, the tears begin to disappear, her emotions start to subside and her logic is kicking in. She is now ready to rethink and have a look at where she went wrong and work through the answers.

I learnt a lot from this conversation. I wonder how much pressure kids put themselves under when pretending they aren't worried about sats and exams in general. I will be paying attention far more to check Megan is okay and not saying what she thinks we want to hear. Listening, without offering opinion is hard, especially when it's someone you love.

The Communication Coach

Riseley, Bedford MK44, UK

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