Family

Ideas for ways to have proper conversations with your kids

Tips to get your young ones talking.
Ideas for ways to have proper conversations with your kids

In homes all over the country, there are conversations taking place every day that go something like this:

Parent: Hi, how was your day?

Child: Good.

Parent: How was school?

Child: Okay.

Parent: What did you do?

Child: Nothing much.

And that, all too often, is the extent of the conversation. While some of us have children who love nothing more than to chatter about what’s going on in their lives, for many others getting even the tiniest shred of information out of our offspring is like getting blood out of a stone.

Because we have such busy lives, if our child doesn’t readily volunteer details we don’t always have time to sit down and coax even the smallest of snippets out of them. That’s a shame, because it is vital to be able to talk easily to your child on a range of subjects from serious to silly. It will strengthen the bond between the two of you, allow you to understand what is going on in their lives and how they are coping, and help to teach them the art of conversation.

And if you’ve always been able to chat about anything and everything, they are more likely to feel comfortable talking to you about important matters, like drinking alcohol, peer pressure, bullying and sexuality.

Here are some ideas for ways you can get into the habit of having proper conversations with your kids.

ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

Instead of being general – “How was school?” – be more specific. For example, ask how a particular lesson went, how they are getting on with their teacher, what marks they got for their maths test, which friends they’re hanging out with. You’re likely to get a more detailed answer.

LISTEN CAREFULLY

There’s no point in asking your child a question to initiate a conversation and then not paying proper attention to their reply because you are trying to cook dinner or check your emails. Try to focus on them as much as you can.

BE A ROLE MODEL

If they are slow to open up with information about themselves, try showing them how it is done by talking about yourself. Discuss things that are going on in your life now, express your opinions and also talk about nostalgic matters, like your memories of school. Talking about yourself is also good because it helps them to develop empathy and it will stop them feeling as though they are being pumped for information. But don’t bore or trouble them with things they don’t need to know.

PICK YOUR TIME… AND YOUR PLACE

Do not try to strike up any conversation just as their favourite TV show is starting or while they are doing homework. Allowing 10 minutes when they’re in bed and before lights go out can work, unless they are so tired talking is the last thing they want to do. In many households dinner time is the best time for conversations. Some people swear by car journeys as the ideal time to bring up subjects to talk about, as their children are then a captive audience. The only problem is you can’t make eye contact easily when you’re driving and you have to be able to focus on the road.

GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS

Turn the TV off and make them put their computers or gaming devices away. Switch off your phone or leave it in another room, so you don’t get distracted either.

MAKE IT FUN

Conversing with your child is not meant to be a chore for either of you. Have fun with them, and make sure they are enjoying it too.

STRUCTURE YOUR CHATS

Some people find that to get their kids talking they have to set guidelines. For example, I know of one family who have a “good things” discussion every night around the dinner table – each person in the family comes up with one good thing that has happened to them that day. As well as helping start a conversation, it also helps them to look for positives in their life and to be grateful. Or else you might make it clear that you expect your kids to tell you at least one specific thing about what they’ve done at school on the car trip home.

DON’T NAG THEM TO OPEN UP

Pressuring some kids – especially teenagers – can have the opposite effect. If one of your kids is particularly reticent, don’t harangue them in front of the rest of the family. Having one-on-one chats in private might work better.

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