When faced with new information or a new experience, our children process the news in different ways. Some will talk about it and let you know how they think and feel. Others usually will step back as they need time alone and more time to consider, on their own, what happened. We call these two different styles external processing and internal processing.
To be sure, there is no right way to handle information, and no one person handles new information in one way all the time. It is helpful to know how our children usually take in and process new information so that they can be successful at home, in the community and in school. This can be especially important for our children who have been adopted.
Children who are generally external processors of information are energized by talking and being with others. They often will say the first thing that comes to their mind. In addition, by talking with others, they can even modify or change their ideas. This learning style can be helpful in new situations because your child lets you or others know what they are thinking. If your child has a friend who is an internal processor, they may need to learn to be more patient, wait their turn in conversations and allow the other person to express themselves.
For children who are internal processors, their thoughtful responses to new situations or ideas often take more time to be expressed. Adults in their world need to recognize that they need more time to consider new ideas and respond. They benefit from a longer wait time between being asked a question and offering a reply. These children get energy from within and as they grow older, they may like to write their thoughts in a journal. They often may need to feel safer in an environment in order to share their feelings and thoughts.
Some people just need to read and think, to spend time alone sorting through the stories in their heads.Ronald T. Potter-Efron
Because our world has a broad mix of people who process information differently, children and adults need to be aware of their own learning styles and the ways in which others consider new ideas or situations. As a parent, your own style of considering new information may be different from your child’s method. If you are frustrated and can’t get your child to talk to you about a new situation, consider that they may be processing that information in a different way. To find out their ideas, you may need to give them more time and create a safe environment for them to share their ideas, feelings or opinions.
As you get to know your child’s general way of absorbing and considering new information or experiences, it is helpful to share this information with other adults in their lives, such as teachers, coaches and close family friends. Within a family, siblings can show differences in this area, so you as a parent may be able to reduce sibling conflicts by educating your children about their unique learning styles.
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Children who either “talk to think” or “think to talk” may need adult help to either listen and consider new ideas or to express themselves more clearly. Some children who process information internally are seen as shy or withdrawn, where actually it’s just a different style of taking in new information. Talkative children may be seen as too dominating in their class or with peers, but it may just be their style of seeking input from others or a sign of their ease at articulating their thoughts and feelings.
We live, go to school and work in a world that requires good communication and teamwork. Knowing how your children process information, helping them identify their own style and letting others know about this strength can reduce conflicts and increase healthy communication.
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All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.