Good communication and effective engagement are central to working with children, young people, their families, carers and practitioners. Communication is a fundamental part of the Common Core: it provides us with a link between people and it involves listening, questioning, understanding and responding to what is being expressed by children and young people, in the design and delivery of services and decisions that affect them. Communication is not just about the words we use, but also about the manner of speaking, our body language and, above all, the effectiveness with which we listen. It is important that the link we create and the method of communication we use, meet the requirements of all parties and take into account the needs of children and young people. These could range from disabilities (e.g. visual impairments, learning difficulties), family background or age.
To communicate effectively it is also important to consider the context, for example when English is an additional language. Non-verbal communication is also just as important as verbal communication; therefore, it is not only about using the correct words but also about controlling facial expressions and maintaining eye contact. Effective communication consists of several parts: talking, listening to what the other person says, informing (e.g. the pupils or their parents about school issues), and praising, which can also be a very important and effective way of motivation for children.
Working with children and their families is fascinating and rewarding because it is all about human relationships, and consequently it requires us to build positive relationships with them quickly, but also in ways that are professional. As a Teaching Assistant it is essential that we constantly develop our communication skills and learn to speak in a different way to the children. In fact, early years practitioners will need to demonstrate and model effective communication skills in dealing with children/young people at work. This means that they should consider both how they approach and how they respond to them. In fact, effective communication is the most important part in developing positive relationships with children, young people and adults. Pupils who struggle with their learning or have low confidence and self-esteem issues may find that they are less able to communicate with all of us; therefore, treating these pupils in a calm, positive, praising and gentle manner could help them improve their communication skills as they will feel more comfortable. We should ensure we take the time to listen, especially if they ask us for advice or assistance. They may wish to confide in us and we should make sure to show interest in what they say and respond in an appropriate way. How we listen to others is important, being empathic builds good relationships with children and young people making them feel that we are able to see and understand their point of view. In doing this they will feel supported and they will trust and be open with us. We should also be considerate and take the time to understand that sometimes children and adults have other concerns and issues out of school that are occurring in their life. This could lead to them behaving or reacting out of character or in an unexpected way. We should ensure we take the time to listen to others, especially if they ask us for advice or assistance. They may wish to confide in us and we should make sure we show interest in what they say and respond in an appropriate way.
Having a positive relationship with children and young adults is important because if they feel emotionally secure with the adult and their setting weather it is a childminder, a nursery or a school, they are more likely to participate in the play and learning activities. To build a relationship with children, young people and those caring for them, it is important to demonstrate understanding, respect and honesty. We should always be courteous and actively listen to their opinions and points of view. We should be mindful that adults and children may be from different backgrounds or cultures to our own which may mean they have a different perspective on issues, values and beliefs. We must always acknowledge these views and respect them. Even taking the time to remember names and the preferred way to be addressed can improve a relationship. Effective communication and positive relationships do not happen by chance. We should think about the way we relate to others and the messages that this sends out. Positive relationships are built upon everyday and there are certain factors that help us maintain the positivity. Adults need to show positive relationships with each other in front of children and young people so that the child can copy this behaviour. This helps to demonstrate what is expected and acceptable in building relationships. If good communication exists between everyone involved, children, staff and parents/carers, it will help prevent and avoid any misunderstandings and unnecessary worry. Furthermore, maintaining a sense of humour allows us to see the lighter side of an unpleasant situation and hopefully prevents this situation from becoming stressful. Laughing can also be a good way to release tension.
Whilst it is important to communicate effectively with pupils, it is also of equal importance to communicate with parents, colleagues and other staff. Regarding colleagues, promoting and maintaining productive working relationships is vital in order to provide children with quality education. It’s widely recognised that the more involved parents are in their child’s education, the better the pupil performs at school. Whether, it’s just being aware of their progress and understanding their achievements or parents taking a more active role and becoming involved with the school itself. If communication is effective, parents and carers are more likely to contribute to and offer support to the school. Where parents are concerned, it is essential that we build positive relationships so that we can work closely together with them. This should include settling the child in, sharing developmental information and also learning about children’s interests. Schools must therefore create an effective partnership by providing an open and communicative environment with its community, forming a link between pupils and their families. If there is a communication breakdown between school, parents and pupils this could have a damaging impact on the pupil’s educational and emotional performance.
The key to building relationships with other adults is mutual respect and the understanding that although our approaches may vary, everyone involved is working towards the same end: the welfare and education of the child.