Parents want to know about their child’s day. Like allllllll about it… How was school? What did you learn? Did you eat your lunch? What did you eat? How was the math test? Were you nice to people? Are people being kind to you or does Mama need to bust some chops?
And we all know what the most common responses seem to be: “fine”, “good”, “ok”.
It can be frustrating to get those one word answers! Conversations with children, y’all. They can be hard. You’re not alone in that! I looked through a bunch of articles and some of my old presentations about communicating with your child. None of them are magic, rocket science or a cure-all. But they’re ideas. Maybe you’ll find them useful.
- Timing: This can be a matter of knowing your child’s personality. Some kids are ripping and raring to talk as soon as they get home. You can hardly get them to stop! Other kids need a little time between leaving school and transitioning into home before they’re ready to share. If this is your child, greet them with a “Hey! I’m so glad to see you!” when they come home, then wait for another time to talk. Here are a few options:
- Dinner Time: There are a lot of perks to family dinners. Establish this time each day as when everyone shares about their day. As it becomes routine, kids will be prepared to share. I love what ideas this list provides. This also helps children learn to listen to others.
- Bed Time: Chances are your child will want to put off sleepy time anyway. Make use of it by asking about their day! Often children (and adults, not me — a friend) mulling over something tend to get it off their chests around bedtime. Also, I love the Ignatian Prayers of Examen and think they’re wonderful to use with children. As you help your children learn to pray, consider asking about things to pray for from their day.
- Side-by-side Time: Here’s a total non-surprise…kids don’t like to sit down and have conversation for hours like we adults. Look for side-by-side time to talk. It can be in the car on an errand, playing, throwing the ball around in the yard or helping set the table for dinner. For little kids, draw a picture of the day or play school together. See what they talk about and instruct you to do! Play is a way that little children provide information.
- Get Creative: Here are other ways to open the lines of communication with your child.
- Open-Ended Exploring Questions: HERE is a fun list of questions that foster conversation. I bet you’d learn a lot of good information from some of these!
- Shared journal for older kids: Sometimes things are easier said in writing. If your child is older and starting to give you more shrugs and eye-rolls, consider a journal that you pass back and forth. Write a question each day on a page and put it on your child’s pillow. They can write a response and you can read it, comment on it, perhaps even say something you enjoyed about it, and put it back for the next night. Preteens and teens might act like this is annoying, but I bet they read every word you write! Keep in mind this journal is NOT for you in the sense that you write about your secrets and life. But it IS for you in the sense that you are learning about, and connecting with, your child.
- Listening: Man, this might be the hardest part. It’s so much easier to give advice, judge or highjack conversations. However, listening is crucial to establishing trust and keeping the lines of communication open with your child. Here are two starting points for better listening:
- Pauses: Think of pauses in two forms. The first is asking a question, then letting the pause be until someone answers. The second is if your kid starts talking, let them go and hit the pause button on your own questioning/talking. You might be surprised at some things they mention that you didn’t think to ask!
- Reflecting, but not interrupting: As children share, parents want to do things like fix a problem, check cell phones or provide advice. Listening means that those are not our first reactions in conversations with anyone, especially our children. Consider helping them say more by offering reflection statements that show you are listening like, “That sounds boring” or “You sound excited”. Apologize if you interrupt them.
Remember that questions about the day are more than just about gathering information. They’re about building relationship with your child and establishing those all important lines of communication and trust. And that is a lifelong dance. Learning those steps doesn’t happen overnight. Pray for insight and wisdom. Learn your children and what works best for each child.
Lastly, don’t forget that you parents are a gift to each other. Or you can be at least. =) Ask other parents what has worked for them and pray for each other. And leave a comment if you have any ideas to share!