Chapter 2 – Therapeutic Communication and Interviewing

Young Children

You should use a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication with infants. Be constantly aware and adapt your use and choice of communication strategies based on the infant’s response.

 

Figure 2.7: Young children

 

Most infants enjoy hearing the human voice, and this is how they learn and make sense of language. You should talk to them in a relaxed and pleasant tone of voice even though they cannot verbally respond. It’s also okay to use baby talk with infants as it can help with language development: baby talk is a type of speaking where you use enhanced vocal intonation and hyperarticulation of sounds such as vowels and consonants.

In terms of non-verbal communication, you should have a relaxed body posture, smile, use appropriate eye contact, and gestures with your hands; these techniques are important with all children because non-verbal language can facilitate their sense of safety.

With children, you should adapt your communication to their developmental stage. Tailor your language to a level that children will understand, avoiding long complex sentences and instead using short sentences with simple words. Although you may use baby talk with infants, you should use a different approach with toddlers, who often want to be included in the conversation. As children get older, they enjoy receiving compliments and encouragement to connect with them (e.g., “look how much you have grown” or “great job!”).

Because care partners (typically parents) are usually present with young children, it’s important to involve them so that the child feels safe. Here are some points to consider with care partners:

  • While communicating with a parent, the infant or toddler may sit on their parent’s lap and/or play with a toy. This introductory communication can help the child get familiar and comfortable with you, particularly at the first meeting.
  • Children may behave differently because they are afraid or not feeling well. For example, they may hind behind the care partner or refuse care from the healthcare provider or cry or scream. These behaviours can create stress for the care partners, so it’s important to be patient and demonstrate unconditional positive regard.
  • Some or all the client interview will be conducted with the care partner when the child is unable to speak or fully articulate. Because care partners are considered a secondary source of data, you should ask them to clarify and elaborate how they know what they are sharing with you. For example, if they say that their baby is in pain, ask how they know this.
  • At times during the interview, it may be appropriate to interview the parent without the child present, particularly when talking about sensitive topics.

Activity: Check Your Understanding

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Introduction to Communication in Nursing by Edited by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; and Joy Garmaise-Yee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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