The way kids process information is both fascinating and frustrating. Their growing brains are learning so much, and the adults in their life tend to want to take advantage of these critical periods — and survive them. We’ve pulled together a list of tips for talking to kids to make sure you’re able to communicate what you need to.

Give Your Full Attention

When you’re trying to talk to a kid, make sure you’re giving it your full attention. There’s the saying that your kids can have some of your attention all of the time or all of your attention some of the time. Put the phone down and focus on what you’re each trying to communicate.

Set Aside Time

Struggling to give that full attention? For slightly older kids (especially ones with siblings) it can be a good idea to set up times where you sit down and talk about things. Make it a habit so the child knows the opportunity will be there in the future.

Talk About Their Day Bit By Bit

Get used to talking about what the child is doing or has recently done throughout the day instead of in one big debrief session after daycare or school. This gets them used to this type of communication. Plus, their memories can work in funny ways and they may not think to discuss big events.

Be Open to Talking About Big Emotions

Sure, you don’t necessarily want to deal with a temper tantrum. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to talk to your child about emotions like anger, fear, resentment and anxiety.

Talk About How to Express Emotions

Speaking of those big negative emotions they may feel, try talking about different ways to express them. You can say that when you feel mad, you stomp your feet for example.

Pay Attention to Body Language

Try to learn to read your child’s body language in addition to what they’re saying. This is a big one that can prove challenging if you’re often multitasking or on your phone.

Encouragement Words

When your child starts talking about a topic they seem to be enjoying, use encouragement words like “really?” and “go on” to let them know you’re engaged with their story.

Avoid Cutting Them Off

We get it, kids can sometimes really go on and on about the strangest things (while making close to zero sense all the while). You don’t have to let them go on indefinitely all the time, but try to let them finish their own sentences.

Prompt Feelings

Did another child push yours at recess…or vice versa? Ask them how that made them feel when they’re talking to you about the event. And then actually listen to their response, because it may very well surprise you.

Avoid Immediate Problem Solving

As a parent, you may want to immediately try to fix a problem for your child. This may not be what they actually want, though! Try listening and then asking what they want to do next.