The New Year is a time for reflection, establishing new goals, embracing new passions and challenges, and connecting with loved ones. With this sentiment in mind, now is an ideal time to engage with your student about what is most important in their lives. However, for some families effectively communicating with their child is easier said than done.

Many young learners can find it difficult to identify and express their emotions. Struggling to articulate needs and feelings can be frustrating for both your child and those around them, resulting in outbursts, difficulties controlling impulses, and negative loops that can interfere with their ability to appropriately respond to the situation.

At BASIS Independent Fremont, Social-Emotional education is a core component of our curriculum and guides the culture we nurture for our students. By teaching students to learn how to identify their emotions and express their needs, we can build up emotionally resilient students and encourage life-long healthy practices that can unleash our students’ limitless potential.


Luckily, teachers often have little tricks up their sleeves to get students to communicate and act in appropriate ways. We sat down with the Head of our Lower School, Mr. Wagoner, to glean a few techniques that he has found to be particularly effective as a parent, to help you communicate and connect with your student. Here are his “easy peasy” tips for communicating with your learner.

1. “If you do / If you don’t...” - For making clear consequences.

Nudging your child to make good choices is always better than trying to make them do something, especially in the long run. This phrase helps children to stay focused on the choices you expect them to make while being clear about the consequences.

“You need to put your papers and lunchbox in your bag right now. If you don’t, you won’t have them for school today.”

“You need to clean your play area in the next 10 minutes. If you do, then we’ll have time to do a quick bike ride.”

2. “Help me understand.” - For when you need your child to use their thinking brain.

You can show your willingness to listen and help your child switch from emotional to rational with this phrase. As a bonus, having children explain how they feel, think, or view a situation is a great educational exercise. You can follow-up with mirroring, such as, “You said, (rephrase what they said).

“I hear you screaming at your sister. Help me understand the problem.”

3. “Answer in your head.” - For when your child can’t contain themselves.

If you find you can’t even get through your question before your child shouts their answer or opinion, start with, “Answer in your head.” They still get to answer your question, but keep their answer silent, waiting in their brain until you ask for it. This is especially effective with multiple children when you don’t want a barrage of answers all at once.

4. “It seems like you’re feeling _______.” - For helping children identify their emotions.

Sometimes the problem is your child’s reaction to the problem. The next time your child comes screaming to you, give this one a try. Once you’ve helped them identify they’re feeling disappointed, frustrated, treated unfairly, or any other strong negative emotion, you can begin to guide them on the next steps toward resolving the issue.

5. “What would make you feel better?” - To help your child be solution-oriented.

They may come to you in a fit of tears, but the end goal is for them to identify, manage, and move on from their negative emotions. “What would make you feel better?” prompts children to identify the next step that will help them the most, be it a brainstorm to solve a problem or just a comforting hug.

6. “It looks like you need help with _______.” - For when they need to do it now.

This is especially effective for tasks your child can do 100% independently. Children like you to know they can “do it by themselves.” But, there’s a big difference between can and will. This phrase can trigger them into action to show you they don’t need your help. The key here is to physically move to help them as you say this and show you mean business.

7. “I’ll come back when...” - For when you need a break.

When you run out of patience (as we all do!), it’s still important to model a healthy response to your strong emotions. Take a deep breath, say how you feel, and let them know you’re leaving.

“I’m feeling frustrated with you. I’ll come back when I’m feeling calmer. While I’m gone, focus on cleaning up your books.”

Every child is different in their needs and the way they respond to the world. Whether your student is struggling to articulate their emotions or simply feeling shy about expressing their thoughts, every family can benefit from taking a moment to reflect on the methods they implement to help their child learn to communicate effectively. Practicing these skills at home can help your student develop invaluable social-emotional skills, build confidence, and hurdle past future obstacles. Give these tips a try and judge for yourself what's most effective for your learner!

BASIS Independent Fremont is a grades TK-12 private school based in Fremont, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Considering joining the BASIS Independent Fremont community? Join our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for Fall 2022.