Moms, Stop Texting And Pick Up The Phone. Kids Need To Hear Your Voice.

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For someone who writes all day long, it can still be difficult to come up with the right words when my daughter needs them. When she’s upset and frustrated, all I want to do is help calm her down. But what exactly do you say to reassure a toddler? I normally settle on a lot of, “It’ll be ok” and “I love you very much, my dear”.

Apparently, it never mattered much what I said. The most important part of reassuring a child is simply that they hear it. A new study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior says that hearing your mother speak lowers cortisol (a sign of stress) and increases oxycotin in girls aged seven to twelve. When the girls only read the words via instant message, no such hormonal change occurred. Even though the words and sentiment are present in written communication, a child’s brain shows no difference between an encouraging and supportive text and no text at all. But talking on the phone had the same effect as comforting your child in person.

While the study was relatively small and only dealt with 68 girls in a similar age range, its implications are pretty large. With texting and email replacing more traditional forms of communication, parents should know that their voice has its own special hormonal effect on their kids. Actually placing a call to your kids after a stressful day at school or an upsetting experience at camp is important. Many kids rely on texting to talk to everyone, but parents should be making an extra effort to say things over the phone or in person.

So next time your little one has a meltdown, don’t worry so much about what you’re going to say. Simply start talking. The sound of your voice will help, no matter what’s only coming out of it. And as my own mother likes to reassure me (maybe we should start having these conversations on the phone, too…), the words will come.

(Photo: Thinkstock)