How to talk to kids to keep communication and conversation flowing:
- Provide no-pressure conversation opportunities. The quickest way to get kids to shut down and, as a result, shut you out of their lives is to continuously quiz them about things. A more effective approach is to sit back and patiently wait for them to open up in a low-stress family setting, and then be prepared to listen.
- Don't judge or criticize. Parents can sometimes issue such harsh and even close-minded decrees that kids at a young age decide it is best not to talk about something rather than have to sit through your diatribes. If you really want to know what's on your child's mind, then avoid passing judgment and focus instead on why something seems important to your child.
- Ask a child what they think instead of telling them what you think. You want to raise a creative and independent thinker. Right? So stop telling your child what he ought to feel or think. You can gently encourage additional conversation by simply asking why he feels the way he does or what would he do in a certain situation. But be careful not to overdo it when talking with your child.
- Avoid interrogating your child. You may think you're just asking questions out of curiosity when communicating with your child, but a child who is hit with an endless stream of questions about what they did, who acted like what, did everyone get along, did you go to the bathroom, etc., is enough to make anyone shut down! Practice patience and let your kids open up on their terms.
- Be a fly on the wall. Have you ever noticed how your kids think you are invisible when you're driving them somewhere in the car or just hanging out? Sometimes, you can learn more about what your kids think or feel when they are telling their friends about something. Resist the temptation to do anything but listen, and then ask them about things later in a nonchalant fashion.
- Tell stories about yourself growing up. Kids can relate to you and other adults when you tell stories about your own childhood experiences when you were their age. Talking to kids by telling them about things like something embarrassing that happened or the first crush you had helps them to connect with you and understand that you might actually know what they are going through!
- Share quality family time. Find ways to connect with your kids through communications in activities that are mutually fun for you both. Whether it is taking the dog for a nightly walk after dinner, swimming in the backyard pool, playing a game of hoops, or watching a favorite show together, planning low-stress activities and family fun together help set the stage for great conversation.