Getting Your Children To Talk To You

School has started in these parts and three of our 6 kids are in school all day. Lots of things happen during school and I am always excited to hear about all that has gone on when they get home. Not to mention staying in the loop with homework, events, upcoming activities, etc...

Our daughter is great about communicating and telling me all about her day, but our son, he is tight lipped, and although he likes to talk, isn't very good at the "how was your day"? questions.

So, what can we do when our kids don't want to talk? Here are 7 suggestions to help get your kids talking.

First, Don't put your kids on the witness stand! It is natural as parents to immediately ask our kids questions about their day, AS SOON as they walk in the door or climb in the car after school. But... just like adults, they could use some time to unwind, and don't like feeling interrogated the second they get home. Asking all the questions can feel like force, and won't make them talk. If they do talk the answers are often, "fine...good...sure." Not what we are looking for. So instead of starting the questioning the second they get home,  just express your gratitude and excitement to see them and give things some time.

Second, Make sure the time is right.  It is very common for our kids to each communicate differently. For example, when our daughter climbs in the car after school she is already giving me a play-by-play about her day. I am not kidding, she doesn't leave out a single detail. Every second of the day is accounted for. She needs to talk right away, get things explained and communicated. Now, our son who is 8th grade is totally different. He is a "I want to talk later" communicator. He doesn't have much to say right away, but if I give him a few hours and some space, by the end of the day, and even throughout the next two days, he will tell me all about what is going on without me even asking! The time just has to be right for him. As parents, it is important that we understand the communication time frame for each of our children. We will see much more success that way.

Third, One question at a time. When the time comes to ask our kids questions about things that are going on at school or in life, we tend to hit them with more than one question at the same time. For example..."how was soccer practice and did you finish your homework"? Although both are valid questions, asking them, without listening to the answer to the first one, can overwhelm our children, and also gives them the impression that we don't really care about their answers because we won't stay quiet long enough to listen. Only ask one question at a time. Then pause and let your child answer. Don't cut them off, or cut them short. Once they are done, move on to question number 2.

Fourth, Be at the crossroads. Be available. When at all possible, try to be at the crossroads of your children's day. Before school, after school, when they come home between practice and piano, at dinner. Don't be there to interrogate, just be there, available, so that if your children want to talk, they know where to find you and that your ears will be ready. Another great way to be available is to spend 15 uninterrupted minutes with each of your children each day.

Fifth, we have two ears and one mouth. LISTEN TWICE AS MUCH AS YOU TALK! Yes, the old saying is true. If we want our kids to talk to us, we have to stop talking and start listening. That goes for any of our relationships.

Sixth, Be active together. One of the best places to talk to our kids, is while DOING something together. Find an activity, sport, anything that you both enjoy, and do it together. It will put the focus on something besides talking and ironically enough, talking will happen. Go for a hike, paint a picture, anything, together.

Seventh, Be yourself. Our children will not understand how to talk/share about their day if we don't show them. We need to tell our children about our day, fill them in, teach them how to express themselves and they will learn from our example. We need to be open (appropriate open) so that they will be open with us.

Getting our kids to open up to us can be hard, but with a few thoughtful steps and reminders, we can make the situation comfortable for them, and before we know it, they will be talking up a storm.

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