Recently, I was left alone to supervise a two-year-old child for roughly 120 minutes — I know the exact amount of time because I was watching the clock, diligently. At the moment, I'm not directly related to any children. The only experience I have interacting with them is based on my experience being a child and the few times a year when I see my cousins' kids. So, I feel like I'm really bad at it.
This kid and I share some blood, so in theory, this was set up to be chill. She's not super talkative, which was ideal for this babysitting sesh, and she's also cute to look at! "Um so, what's up?" I asked her in earnest. I got nothing in return, which isn't great for someone who searches for validation in the faces of grown adults while speaking to them. It turns out my cousin's kid isn't a total jerk, she's just a kid.
If you're an adult who has no exposure to kids, like me, then it's certainly normal to feel awkward talking to one, according to Yamalis Diaz, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Health. Most people don't know what to talk about with kids, so they don't bother trying. "They probably at times underestimate how much kids actually can understand and engage in a reciprocal relationship," Dr. Diaz says. "They don’t attempt it, and it becomes an awkward or quiet interaction between them and a child."
But kids actually can have conversations, even at as young as two years old. You just have to steer them, Dr. Diaz says. Given that, ahead are some tips from Dr. Diaz for how to talk to a kid without feeling like a robot.