Imagine you are on an alien planet, where you understand NOTHING. You don’t speak the language, you don’t know what anything is and you certainly don’t understand what the aliens are doing. Now, imagine an alien put you in their spaceship and strapped you down with restraints? What if an alien poked and prodded you with different objects? How do you think you would feel? Confused? Worried? Scared?
Now imagine you had a tour guide that you trusted because you knew they loved you and wanted the best for you. (Doesn’t that feel better already?) Your guide took the time to explain this strange world to you. When they put in their spaceship and strap you down, your guide explains the restraints are part of alien law and meant to keep you safe. When another alien pokes and prods you, your guide explains the alien is checking to make sure you are healthy. Even if you don’t like it, it probably feels better knowing what is happening to you. The same is true for kids.
As adults, we take for granted that our world is familiar to us. To our children this world is brand new. Our kids need our help to guide them, to explain what is happening, why it is happening and what to expect. This process is called narrating our environment and it helps children feel safe. (See our next article to learn about narrating feelings.)
HOW TO NARRATE OUR ENVIRONMENT:
1. Explain what is happening.
2. Why why it is happening.
3. Explain what to expect. (If needed.)
I am dropping you off at grandmas. She is going to play with you while I go to my doctor’s appointment. I’ll be back at 4pm to pick you up Then we will go get groceries and go home. (If your child is too young to understand time give them a concrete explanation like “after snack” or use a time analogy like “two hours is the same amount of time we spent in music class”.)
I am going to change your diaper because that is how I keep your body clean. How about you play with this toy while I change you?
– Narrating to your children does not mean they won’t protest or cry. They may not like what is happening, but narrating will help them understand, feel respected and feel safe.
– Narrating to children who are pre-verbal is important. Even though they may not understand your words, they understand calm, soothing tones and your intention.
– Narrating also helps children, even pre-verbal children, learn language because how often a parent talks to their child strongly influences a child’s language development. (See our previous article 32 Million Word Difference.)
– Studies have shown that children as young as 3-months start processing important language skills so talking early gives your children a head start.
– As children grow and learn, they need us less to navigate the physical world, but they still need us to help navigate other areas, especially the emotional and social world. See next week’s article “Communication’s Golden Key”.
32 Million Word Difference (Previously published.)
Communication’s Golden Key (Our next up coming article.)