It can be very difficult to communicate with children. But it’s important, regardless of their age and temperament, to take time each day to ask them questions about what’s going on in their lives. It can be challenging to get them to open up, particularly as they get older, but there are strategies you can use to get your children to communicate with you. Keep reading to discover nine ways to encourage your children to talk to you.
1. Respond to conversation openers
Notice the little conversation openers your children offer up throughout the day, and make sure to respond to them. The earlier you start this, the better. Conversation openers can be even easier when your child brings projects home. In a 1999 study, researchers Christine A. Marvin and Amy J. Privratsky observed that when a 4-year-old brought home objects from preschool, including art projects, the children spoke more and referred to recent school activities significantly more than when they didn’t bring an object home. Use your child’s projects as opportunities to ask about his or her masterpiece as well as how the school day went. Ask open-ended questions, and make sure you listen.
2. Ask non-judgmental questions
Try to phrase your questions in ways that don’t cause your child to go on the defensive, such as “Why did you do that?” Try to steer clear of “why” questions, and ask more constructive questions like “what was the best thing about school today?”
3. Really listen
Just as adults need this, children also need a chance to openly vent. This is something that can be difficult for parents. Sometimes, all you want to do is jump in and offer solutions right away. Instead, try letting them talk uninterrupted, and then help them brainstorm solutions. If you take a step back, listen, and let them come up with their own solutions (with a little gentle guidance from you), they are more likely to seek you out when they have problems in the future.
4. Make sure you connect with your kids every day
It’s so crucial to make sure you connect with your children each and every day, no matter how busy you are. Whether you’re at the house when they get home from school, have a sit-down dinner together, or snuggle on the couch before bedtime, make sure the two of you have a special time to catch up.
5. Do something special once a week
Build something special into your weekly routine; your kids will look forward to this and hopefully use it as an opportunity to talk about things that are on their minds. For example, try going to brunch with your child once a week, or schedule time to shoot hoops together.
6. Phrase things positively
The older kids get, the more time they’ll spend at school, participating in extra-curricular activities, and hanging out with friends. It’s important, though, that you continue to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their lives. The best way to connect with your children and encourage a fantastic relationship with them is to find nice ways to express that you want to spend time together. Instead of saying “you never tell me anything these days,” phrase it as ” I would love to go for lunch or do something special together.” They’ll respond better when you have a more pleasant tone.
7. Don’t respond with anger
Teens are hormonal, so they can be very emotional. If they lash out at you, don’t respond with anger. Instead, calmly express how their comments made you feel. Expressing your feelings with words — and not just raw emotion — will teach your kids how to do the same.
8. Give them some space
Pressing children to talk is never a great way to get them to open up. Sometimes parenting means giving your children some space to process their emotions by themselves. Then, when they’re ready, encourage them to talk to you about what’s going on.
9. Always listen
The single most important way to get kids to open up is to listen: Don’t talk, listen. Remain quiet, allowing them to talk more, and ask questions in response as long as they’re not interrogative. This will encourage your kids to continue to open up to you.