Having an open line of communication with your kids has never been as important as it is in today’s day and age. With the various different struggles and challenges that your kids face everyday, it’s no secret why they tend to close up and keep to themselves. But in order to foster a strong bond with your kids and have the ability to give input and help them, you must first find a way to communicate with them well. We all think we communicate with our kids. After all, we live with them. But is this really true? Most children spend a majority of their time in school, extra curricular classes and being shuttled back and forth with lined activities. And when you finally sit down for that family dinner, they are exhausted and give you one word answers. Here are a few effective questions you can ask your kids to start a real conversation.
1. When Enquiring About School
We’re sure all parents have asked their kids the question “How was school today?” at least once in their lives. When you asked your kids this question for the first time they probably responded with a long and descriptive story about their first day at school. They might have told you all the details and talked about their emotions because it’s something unusual for them. However, when school becomes a routine, you’re more inclined to hear some one word answers that give no indication to how your kids are really fairing in school. So, what do you do?
The truth is that this question isn’t much of a conversation starter and can easily be answered with a “fine” or “okay”. In order to get a more detailed response, try asking your kids more open ended questions. For example, ask them what they are most excited to be learning at the moment. Was there a moment where they felt proud of themselves that day? What was one enjoyable conversation they had with a classmate? These questions are far more engaging and interesting. So, your child will be able to elaborate on their answer and really think about their day in school in the process. And you’ll be in the loop. Mission accomplished!
2. How To Start Difficult Conversations
Unfortunately, your child’s school years may not be the best years of their life. It can actually be the worst. Although there are rules that have been put in place to prevent bullying, many children still get bullied and ostracized by their peers. The need to fit in can be consuming and overwhelming as your little one grows up. This can often put them in a bad mood or even result in anger issues and behavioral problems. Is your child isolating themselves? Do they seem troubled or sad? Are they restless and tend to snap at you out of the blue? These are things that you need to address head on.
So how do you approach this conversion? Your child probably hasn’t come to you with these problems yet because they are either embarrassed about them or scared of how you’ll react. So try your best to put them at ease. Be open-minded and willing to listen and try not to react negatively to anything you hear. You can start off with something like “Are there any challenges you are facing in school?” or “Is someone in class disrespecting you or harming you in some way?” Try not to probe. Allow them to open up to you in their own time but let them know that you are there to comfort and support them when they do.
3. Make Them Feel Understood
When your child starts to reply honestly, don’t try to interrupt them. Allow them to unburden themselves to you without any advice or comments. After they have finished relaying all the information to you, you can ask them to tell you some things in detail. Now’s your time to make enquiries and get specifics. But remember that your main function is to help them feel secure, safe and listened to. So, if something worries them, but they don’t want to talk about it, make them feel safe and encourage them to share the whole story instead of just pushing to know every single detail of the story. This can make your child feel anxious. Pay attention to the important stuff and discard the rest.
Ask them how they are feeling and validate their emotions. Sometimes all your child needs to hear is that it is okay to feel as they do. And finally, thank them for sharing their thoughts with you. You can come up with a solution together later. For now let your kids know how much you appreciate their effort to be open with you.
Establishing a close relationship with your kids can be hard. They are constantly evolving and it can be hard to get a hold of them with their busy schedules. But having an open line of communication always helps. Happy parenting!