We often encourage adults to practice self-care, gratitude and personal development, however, it’s equally important to teach these practices to our children and start these healthy habits early on. There are many ways to support your children and foster a meaningful relationship with them. Having an open dialogue and creating an environment that supports discussion, acknowledgment, and acceptance is important to your children’s well-being, self-esteem, and development.
Communicating with kids can be challenging, yet we are so eager to hear about each and every moment of their day. We want to know what’s bothering them, who they ate lunch with and how they did on their math test. Often our kids don’t feel like opening up about school or friends, and when they do you may only get a few short words that leave you with many more questions.
5 Tips for Communicating with Kids
Here are a few tips to help you connect with your kids, start meaningful conversations and get a real answer to that dreaded question – “How was your day?”
Let them talk first
Okay, I know the first thing you want to ask when you see them is “how was it?” or “did you have fun?” However, your child doesn’t want to be bombarded with questions the second they see you. When I wait and give my daughter an opportunity to talk first she’s much more likely to open up and share the details of her day without me even having to ask.
Talk less, listen more
When our kids are opening up to us we often react quickly. We want to fix things! What your kids really need is a listening ear. Don’t assume you know what they’re going to say and finish their sentence. Don’t jump in and try to solve their problem or ask five more questions. Just listen. A simple “uh-huh” or “oh” shows you’re listening and acknowledging, but allows them to continue talking.
Acknowledge their feelings
Okay, I know most of your kid’s meltdowns feel absolutely ridiculous, but the more you acknowledge how they’re feeling, the more they will want to talk to you. Make sure you’re listening to the small stuff because someday it’s going to be big stuff.
Ask open-ended questions
When you ask your child “did you have fun?” or “did you have a good day?” you’re going to get a very short answer. Ask questions that promote discussion and get them thinking about their feelings and actions. An example would be – “what was the best part of your day?” or “who did you hang out with today?”
Don’t ask questions
Okay, I know I just said to ask open-ended questions but some kids don’t do well with questions at all. It can make them anxious and make them shut down. Those kids are more likely to respond to statements acknowledging them. Examples would be – “you look like you’ve had a tough day.” or “I was thinking about you today during lunchtime.”
Create a daily routine that encourages discussion and reflection
Find time every day to focus on your child without interruption. Part of our evening routine includes taking out my daughter’s journal and writing about what she’s grateful for, what went well and what didn’t go well that day. We do this together and because she uses a guided journal she doesn’t feel like Mom is asking her annoying questions. It’s become part of our nightly routine that we both look forward to. She pauses to think about her day and I get to hear about it and help her work through any feelings she’s having!
Conversation Starters for Kids
If asking “did you have a good day?” is the wrong question? What are the right ones? As I mentioned, asking open-ended questions will foster discussion and connection between parents and kids.
Here are 5 questions you can ask your kids this week…
- How did you show kindness today?
- What is the hardest thing about being a kid?
- What are you proud of?
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
- What are you scared of?
Questions like these allow you to go deeper than simply talking about what you did today. They get your child thinking, reflecting and learning to acknowledge their feelings, both good and bad (and it will get you thinking too). Hearing the answers to these deeper questions will allow you to understand more of what’s going on in their head. You can find these questions and many more in our Thankful Thoughts journals.
Want more questions to get them talking?
I’ve created a list of 50 conversation starters for kids. These questions encourage kids to think about what feelings they may be having and allow them to process those feelings. You can take the list out at the dinner table, before bed or keep it handy in the car to start a meaningful conversation. Don’t go overboard though, I suggest choosing one question per day to start an engaging conversation. Spending ten minutes per day having these important conversations with your kids will help improve your connection with your children and ensure open communication continues as they get older.