Relationships with others are important- the backbone of society. A child’s relationship with his or her parents sets the stage for the types of relationships they will have in the future. Communication is the foundation of a successful relationship. Therefore the communication between a child and his or her parents is important. Here are some tips to get the communication going!
- Use open-ended questions rather than close-ended when you want a conversation. Closed- ended questions are questions that can be answered with only a word or two. The question is specific so the answer will be specific. Open ended questions allow the person to answer in any way they would like and usually with more descriptions. Consider how different the responses would be in the following 2 questions- Did you have a good day in school today? (Closed-ended). Or- What did you do in school today? (Open-ended).
- Use close-ended questions when you are trying to make a decision with your child. I think it’s important to find ways to empower children and allow them to feel some control over their lives. That said, there are usually limits that we have to place on choices. For these situations, give the child several options to choose from. Consider what your child would say if you asked, “What do you want to do this weekend?” If your kid is like mine- the answer would be, “Disney World!!” Instead, try a close-ended question such as, “Would you like to go to the movies or bowling this weekend?”
- Avoid asking “why”. For some reason- the word “why” tends to make some kids feel on guard. An alternative that works better is to say, “How come?”
- My favorite phrase is “Tell me about….” Gone are the days when your little one proudly shows you their masterpiece and you can see them actually deflate when you ask, “What is it?” Instead just ask them to tell you about their beautiful artwork. That is just one application. “Tell me about…” is such a useful tool for encouraging communication. Those 3 little words are actually conveying that you want to know about them. It is permission to talk openly. This phrase works on everyone from little ones to tweens, teens and even adults.
- Make time to talk. Everyone is busy. There is never enough time to get everything done- much less to find time to talk with our kids or partner about anything of substance. There are a few times; however, when making time to talk is a little easier: dinner time and time in the car. Even if it is just a few times a week- eat dinner together and have good, deep conversation. Turn down the radio in the car and talk. (Tips for meaningful talk later.) The 2 places I tend to talk with my kiddo are in the car and at night when I am putting her in bed.
- Be respectful of when your kids don’t want to talk. Just like you, they have moods and times when they are not going to talk. Respect that. And let them know that you are there when and if they want to talk.
- Be patient. If verbal communication is not something that comes easily in your family, think of this as learning a new skill. And learning a new skill requires practice. Keep at it.
- Make it fun and interesting. Most of the conversations in families are very goal oriented. And by goal oriented, I mean- the goal is just to get through the day in one piece. Get to know more about the people that live under the same roof as you. Get to know what and how they think and feel. Let them know about you too. To help with this, click on the “conversation starters” link below to download a pdf that you can print and cut out into cards. At least once or twice a week, have your family talk about whatever is on a card. Everyone answers. There are 3 blank cards too, so come up with some questions of your own. When you do sit down to talk about the topic, make sure to leave whatever stress or frustration you are having behind and focus on what everyone is saying.