Children’s identity depends to a large extent on how well and how often they talk to themselves. They learn this important skill when caregivers take time to talk with them about everyday activities and routines. Together they reminisce about things they enjoyed doing or people they were happy to see. They help children anticipate what’s happening in the near future and what preparations need to be made. They use words to talk about the child’s behavior, and make suggestions about how to change what they are doing to be more successful in achieving their goals.
When parents model this type of internal dialog, they increase their children’s capacity to learn by providing them with a large vocabulary, teaching them to use language to monitor their behavior, and encouraging them to think in a sequential manner that positions events in the past, present, or future. This fosters a coherent sense of self, as well the ability to observe the same experience from various perspectives. With enough practice children eventually, continue this dialog with themselves, using it to monitor their behavior, and prepare for upcoming events.
The disruptive nature of interpersonal trauma inhibits the development of these important skills. Caregivers who are incapable of forming secure attachments seldom engage children in the on-going collaboration required for the development of internal language. As a result, children whose attachment pattern is avoidant, resistant, or disorganized show deficits in areas of linear sequential thought and perspective taking. They are impulsive and generally lack strong self-monitoring skills. Their limited exposure to meaningful conversations with adults result in depressed vocabulary scores, while memories of their “nonnarrated past” produces an incoherent and confused sense of self (Bloom & Farragher, 2011, p.113).
Strategies for Encouraging Children’s Internal Dialog or Self-talk
- Collaborate with children to create a daily schedule. Review it together to identify any materials or preparation that may be needed for upcoming events and activities. Review the schedule at the end of the day, using it as a springboard for discussion of things that went well, problems that came up, new interests that developed.
- Encourage children to write notes to themselves. The notes can be reminders of things they want to do, or reflections about things that happened to them or that they want to think more about.
- Engage children in frequent conversations about what you are planning and thinking about. Encourage them to do the same.
- Get in the habit of taking a few minutes each day to talk to children about what you are grateful for, and ask what’s on their gratitude list
For more information on the effects of insecure attachment on language development and self talk. see Bloom, S. And B. Farragher (2011). Destroying Sanctuary. Oxford University Press
.DON”T MISS THE EDUCATING TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN SUMMIT, Online September 30, 2014-October 10, 2014. Register at: Attachment_Trauma_Network_ATN@mail.resp.com