My oldest daughter gave me an entertaining, detailed account of her school day every afternoon. I didn’t have to ask her questions; I just listened and enjoyed. But her siblings were the exact opposite. I felt like I was interrogating my boys after school:
“How was your day?”
“How was the math test?”
“It was okay.”
“What did you have for lunch?”
“I don’t remember.”
Sound familiar? For many of us moms, getting our kids to share any information about their school day is a challenge.
Sometimes kids just aren’t in the mood to talk. Younger kids might not remember many details from their day. Others may just have “quiet” personalities. Sometimes your child has something important to share but is nervous about telling you. Regardless of the reason children clam up, it’s important to find ways to create meaningful conversation with our kids. Comfortable conversation is a key part of your relationship with your child, but it takes effort and practice to make it a habit. Here are some ideas to help you encourage more conversation with your sons and daughters.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
It’s not surprising that “yes” or “no” questions won’t reveal much information about your child’s day. Instead, ask open-ended questions that require elaboration. For example, “What did you like most about today?” or “What did you work on in art class?” or “Who did you sit with at lunch?”
Talk About Your Day
Good conversation is about give and take. Tell your child about your day. Just as you wonder what your child does all day, kids wonder what we do, too. Share a funny, exciting or even frustrating story from your day and you might just get some reciprocation. Occasionally share stories about your school days. Who was your favorite teacher when you were young? What subjects did you enjoy most? Did you bring your lunch or buy?
Kids know when you’re only half-listening. Put down the phone, eliminate distractions and truly tune in to your child. Eye contact is important. Model good manners and consideration. Plus, this reassures your child that you’ll really be there when he needs you.
Talk About a Variety of Topics
It’s easy to fall into dull conversation habits; asking the same questions day after day. Instead of always inquiring about tests and homework, mix up your conversation topics. Ask about recess, lunch, friends and after school activities. Ask her to tell you about something funny that happened at school. Mixing things up helps your child feel comfortable talking about a variety of different topics with you. All sharing with you is a good thing, whatever the topic!
Find Various Times To Talk
Sometimes kids aren’t ready to talk the minute school lets out. I figured out that my boys were just tired and hungry right after school. Once they had a snack and a little downtime, they were more open to my questions and some conversation. I found that dinnertime, car rides to practice, and walks around the block were when our best conversations happened.
Be Mindful of Your Reactions
Do your best to be a calm and reflective listener. Sometimes, your child will share things that surprise or worry you. I learned that if I reacted quickly with too much emotion, my kids would close up. Sometimes the best strategy is to listen to all the details and take time to process them. You can ask good, thoughtful questions later.
Take conversation cues from your child, be creative and be persistent. Above all, let your children know that you’re always ready and willing to listen!
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PS) For help with family dinner table conversation, check out this post for fun, simple conversation games. It’s one of my favorite posts!
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