We don’t need to be our kids’ best friends, but something more than a grunt when we ask about their day sure would be nice. When you talk to children for a living hour after hour, shrug after shrug, you slowly develop mad skills on how to get kids to talk. And even then – it doesn’t work all of the time. If a child really doesn’t want to open up – no amount of prodding will help.
With that said, it’s found that many children want to talk, but we inadvertently shut them down. We sometimes add our own unsolicited advice, move into lecture mode or relate the conversation back to our own experiences. For some kids, this is a conversation killer.
So what gets kids to talk? Some very simple tweaks in how we speak to them. These suggestions may seem simplistic and insignificant, but with these small changes in how we talk to them – makes a HUGE difference.
Here are 5 suggestions to help you get your kids talking about what’s going on in their life – especially when they are blue.
Create a space between you and your child that is honest, respectful and sincere as you both learn your roles. With such a space, you can directly ask your child: Is something wrong? Because he or she doesn’t need to always please you, be perfect and put on an “act” as the smart, skilled or likable kid.
Listen and hold your tongue:
Kids want to be heard. They want to be understood. If we rush in to give our two cents – they aren’t going to feel heard or understood. Bite your tongue – literally if you have to. some kids don’t verbalize their feelings quickly. When you nod and show them you are listening – kids continue to talk. They continue to tell more.
As a parent, you can’t communicate meaningfully unless you don’t really know what your child likes, listens to or watches. You may not necessarily do the same thing but it is important to know how and where they spend their time. It is a good idea to sometime watch movies together or discuss a book that you’ve both read. When trying to communicate, don’t always go down nostalgia lane and tell how things were, when you were young, instead talk about the things they like- movies, TV shows, books, games or music. Try to be interested and stay interested.
Give them Space
Your son or daughter may or may not want to “talk about it” due to their personality, temperament, and situation. As a highly effective parent, you need to give your child the space to process his or her emotions by themselves. Every child is learning what emotions are (identification), what to do with them (regulation) and how to do it (approach) so during this process of feeling deep emotions – many boys and girls need to sit with an emotion like sadness, and then with your assistance (when they are ready) learn to let it go (talk about it). But giving a child space and allowing them the time they need to feel strong enough or comfortable enough to talk about it is very respectful.
How you word things can be the small change that makes a big difference
Simply changing how you ask questions can make or break your conversation. Do not ask direct questions – instead, you can say something like, “I wonder…” In front of your sentence. For instance:
Your son tells you he is angry at his best friend and he is never going to talk to him again. Instead of saying:
“What did he do to you?”
“Wow, you seem so angry. I wonder what he did to you?”
Sounds pretty much the same. But, it makes a difference. Most kids (not all) are more likely to answer the second question. Especially if you stay silent after making the comment.
Change sentences like:
“What is good about it?” or “What is bad about it?”
“What is the best part about it?” or “What is the worst part about it?”
For some reason – the first sentence can sound accusatory or judgmental, while the second is acknowledging the feeling and asking for them to elaborate.
Every child is different. Every conversation is different. If you are looking to improve your conversation with your child or the children you work with – try these simple, but effective tweaks in your conversation.
Do you know someone who struggles to get their kids to talk? Share this blog with them!