Understanding Communication, Listening & The Importance of Play

We Must Tune in to What Our Children Are Really Saying

  • Quality communication is crucial in our relationships with our children.
  • Words are not the primary language of children.
  • Much more is communicated through children’s non-verbal language, their behavior, facial expressions.

Show You Are Really There

  • It is important that we stoop down to our child’s level when talking to them, maintaining eye contact through any conversation.
  • Allow them to speak freely, verbalizing all of their fears, without judging what they say.
  • Show that you are connected with what they are saying by giving non-verbal clues – smiles, nods, etc.

Hearing The Hyper Child

Sometimes, the loud hyper child is really trying to ask us to help them slow down, while the apathetic opting-out child is screaming to join in.  We need to learn to read the cues that are hidden in their non-verbal communication.

Communication Breakdown

I have met many parents in recent years, who are no longer able to communicate with their child, because of their frustrations with children’s behavior.  Communication has broken down, as parents can no longer able to see the child from behind the behavior.   I would like to help you to re-awaken a curiosity in your child’s behavior, and to learn to leave some of the old frustrations behind.

Watch this short video I have made to help you understand the hidden messages in what your child is saying.  Then, read through the rest of this e-guide. At the bottom of the page, you will find some great ideas for games, that will help to re-open that precious connection between you and your child.

If you find the tips useful, please like and share the video, so that others can benefit too!


Hyper-activity and apathy are two ends of the same spectrum.  Many behaviors we see in children are their means of managing the activation in their body following a significant life event.  Following a traumatic experience, one child may withdraw completely from his environment, while another may run around shouting and roaring.

While the hyper-active child may tell his story through grand gestures and movements, the apathetic child will be more inclined to more subtle, and often un-noticed, behaviors.   Instead of becoming frustrated, we can tune in and observe our children with curiosity.

We need to learn how to really listen to our children.  Listening involves a lot more than just hearing the words that are being spoken.

Listening is Multi-Faceted

  • Cognitive – words, phrases, meaning
  • Emotional – feelings & emotions
  • Body language – gestures & expressions
  • Behaviors – actions & social interactions
  • Bodily sensations


 Why do Children Play?

  • Play is the work of childhood.
  • Through play, children make sense of the world around them, and practice for real life.
  • Through play, they can complete actions they were unable to achieve in real life; they can fight back, they can defend themselves.
  • Play is a natural way for children to learn regulate themselves.
  • Children can tell stories through their play; it allows them to communicate in a way words always fail.
  • Play provides a safe setting for children to tell stories of distress and relief, expressing feelings and behavior.
  • Play provides a meeting ground for social interaction with other children and with adult care-givers.


  • As adults, we need to set the stage for our children to play.
  • Traditional games like hide-and-seek, tag, jumping rope, dodge games are particularly good with children.
  • Try to avoid computer games, especially ones with violent imagery.
  • Playing outside is better for your child on every level.
  • Really try to make an effort to include yourself in their game time.
  • Your presence will really motivate and excite your child.

Good Games For Re-Connecting With Kids

There are some specific games that can be very good for re-opening your connection with your child.  Dedicate at least twenty minutes per game, so that your child knows that they have your full attention.

 Push n’Pull

  • Sit down opposite your child, and after a few minutes playful chat, ask them to place their palms on yours.
  • Apply a little pressure to meet their resistance.
  • Ask them to push against your hands, varying the pressure.
  • Then, turn it around, and ask them to pull against your hands.
  • Ask your child to push the soles of their feet against your hands, your feet, again varying the pressure.
  • Maintain playful eye contact throughout.
  • Place your hands on the top of your child’s head, and ask them to push upward against your hand.
  • Give some gentle resistance; ask them to “grow up” again the pressure of your contact.
  • These games are very good for grounding your child, and for re-establishing defense responses.
  • Adding resistance allows for your child’s energy to flow around his body again, and down through the limbs.

Tug of War

  • This is a simple variation on the game above, this time using external props.
  • Cut a piece of sheeting, so that there is a piece around two meters long.
  • Mark a mid point between where you and your child are standing
  • Give them one end of the rope, and hold the other yourself
  • While tugging slightly on the rope, ask them to try to get the rope over the marked mid-point to win.
  • Adjust the amount of resistance you apply, letting them win, and lose.
  • Tie three pieces together to allow another child to play too.

As well as being a vital form of bodily contact with you, a safe person, these exercises stimulate a sense of readiness, so the child is capable to deal with real-life situations.

These exercises are particularly good for the fearful child because it allows them to feel their inner strength; it simulates the idea of fighting back, or defending themselves.

The child who presents with low, or inhibited behavior, can move towards greater expression vis-à-vis these games, and be awakened to the here and now.

If your child presents with more hyper-active behaviors, these games may seem counter-intuitive; and it may seem like the game will only hype them up further.  However, after playing a few rounds, with breaks in between, your child will return  to a more ‘normal’ physiological state.  The game helps your child to bring scattered energy to focus on concentrate on one focus point – their hand, foot, etc.

Even watching another child play this game can elicit positive reactions in children.  Play the game with other siblings until they become interested.  Keep it fun, and try not to force the issue if they do not feel like engaging.


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