Inside: Getting Your Kids Talking: 8 Steps To Desired Results
Like many parents at times, you might struggle to get your kids talking about the day or their life. Regardless of your child/children’s age, getting your kids to talk regularly can provide a gauge of their feelings. Do they seem depressed when they talk about school or happy? Perhaps they are being bullied and are fearful of school. The goal as a parent is to get them talking at an early age so that they continue to do so throughout their lifetime. Children, just like adults, are all different. Some are very outspoken and others “clam up” at the first hint of a discussion.
My two daughters are polar opposites when it comes to talking about their day. My oldest will tell you everything that happened from the moment she woke up to the moment she got home and everything in between. My youngest is not that chatty and takes some time to come around to opening up.
If your children are anything like my youngest, getting them to talk about their day can be an exhausting chore filled with words like “ok”,” good” and “nothing”.
ME: “How was school today? Did anything exciting happen?”
ME: “How did you do on your homework assignment?”
ME: “Good talk”
Many children are talkative early on in life. Once they find their voice they like to use it and chatter and question everything. “Why” is one of their favorite words and one they use with such ease. Asking “why” can drive even the most patient parent clinically insane in a matter of minutes. Around the time of elementary school, they start to be less talkative and once high school rolls around you’re lucky if you can get their attention away from their phone or tablet.
As parents, we’re competing to find time to speak with them between school, sports, dance and a slew of activities we enroll them in to keep them busy (and many times out of our hair). We also battle technology and the constant onslaught of social media. Tik Tok videos, Snapchat (is that even still a thing), Twitter, Face Time, YouTube and Netflix are all helping to raise our children often in a negative way. You need to break through this media clutter and find time to speak to your child daily to know what’s going on in their life.
There are some tactics you can use to get your children to talk about their day. The more they get used to speaking with you the easier it will become for them in the future.
The sooner you start getting your kids talking with you about their day the better. Like everything else in life talking about their day can become a habit. When they get home from school have them speak with you or at the very least have conversations at dinner. Don’t be a spectator to your children’s life, become involved.
I’m in my 50’s and growing up my parents were involved in my life to a degree but we never had real heart to heart conversations at dinner and they knew peripherally what was going on in my life. They were in no way as involved in my life as I am in my children’s. Those were different times and generationally that worked for them. Those methods do not work today so start getting your kids talking to you as early as you can in their life.
Look for openings
Your child may offer up little “conversation starters” with you and it’s critical to take these cues and respond. A simple conversation starter like “you won’t believe what happened today at school” may be all you need. Simply nodding and saying “a-ha” or “later” will not be the answer that your child is looking for when they want to talk. This is their way of opening up to you and letting you know they have something to say. You need to pull yourself away from whatever you’re doing to focus on the conversation.
The way you respond will be the indicator to your child if you’re interested in continuing the conversation and hearing more. Can the child count on you when he or she needs you or not? If you want to have a close relationship with your child you need to be ready to talk whenever they are.
Ask fun questions
A good ice breaker with younger children is to ask fun questions to get them started talking. Word your questions in a humorous way to get things rolling. Things like “if the dog could talk what do you think he would say”? This works well on younger children. On older children, you will most likely get the dreaded “eye roll”
Build private time in with them each week
When my girls were younger we used to have daddy/daughter days. I would spend time with each daughter individually and it allowed me time to get to know them better and connect. It could be spending time riding bikes together, hiking, walking the neighborhood or going to a local arcade. Find something you can both connect doing and schedule it. My oldest and I used to go to Dave and Buster’s all the time and my youngest and I played a lot of video games together.
Ask non-judgemental questions
Never start your questions off with “Why” if you’re interested in getting your children to talk about their day. Questions that start with why come off as defensive. If getting your children talking to you is your goal then try starting questions with what, who and how as an opening. “What was the test like today?” “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” “How was the party last night? Who was there?”
Don’t offer solutions and advice right away
Sometimes your children just want to vent and all you want to do as a parent is to jump right in and offer advice. I caution against this. Let your child have a chance to figure it out on their own. They may ask you for a suggestion or what you would do if you just sit and listen. You can recommend brainstorming some resolutions with them which gets them to buy into the process and helps them to build confidence for future problem-solving. If you’re helpful they will be more likely to come to you in the future with problems.
Most importantly is listening to them. This could be the single most important part of getting your children talking. Don’t offer advice or talk, just listen. Repeat back what they are saying so they know you understand, and then let them talk more. If they stop talking, you need to ask more questions, but keep the conversation light.
Connect with them every day
Talking to your child shouldn’t be a once a week activity. You must connect with them every single day. It doesn’t have to be for hours but make sure you connect even if it’s just for a short time. I used to sit on the couch with my girls at night when they were young and when they were watching tv. It gave us some time to connect and talk for a bit about the day. Being a dad that works from home is a bit easier as I am almost always here. For those who go to the office, you must make it a point to come home and talk to them.
Try talking to your children in the car. You have them captive for a certain amount of time until you get to your destination. Use this time wisely. Play with your children when they are young. I played so much house and had many a tea party when my girls were younger. This was a great opportunity to talk and learn more about their thoughts and feelings.
Getting your kids talking requires always being available
Most kids don’t talk on schedule. If you’ve trained yourself to be a good listener they will come to you when they want to talk. For this to be effective you need to make yourself available when they do. It’s easier with younger children because you are around them more often but with older children, it can be challenging.
If you have a strong relationship with your older children they will have no problem speaking to you. If you find an older child isn’t opening up it may be because they don’t feel they can trust you with the information they want to share. Just being around your children more can create opportunities to talk. Cook dinner together, or help with homework. Find ways to be around them, without it seeming like you’re hovering and hounding them.
Getting your kids talking is something you need to do at an early age but it’s never too late to try. The more you can connect with your children and build confidence in them trusting your conversations and valuing your input the easier it will be for them to talk to you in the future.
How have you been successful in getting your kids talking about their day or life? Comment below.