Tips for Inspiring Conversation with Your Kids
Having meaningful conversations with your kids can be tough. We’ve all asked, “How was your day?” and received the dreaded one-word replies of “Good” and “Fine.” Here are a few tips to inspire good conversation and get your kids to open up to you with more than those generic single-syllable replies.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Instead of asking questions that can be answered with just one word, ask open-ended questions. Ask kids what their favorite parts of the day were or what they did with their best friends that day. When they answer, continue the conversation with follow-up questions.
Take time to fully engage with your child during conversations and, most importantly, listen to him. That means turn off the television, cell phone and tablets, and give him full eye contact. If the phone rings, let it can wait until after your conversation. Giving your child your full attention demonstrates that you respect him and what he has to say is important to you.
Make It a Habit
Take time every day to have a conversation with your kids. The time of day is different for everyone. For some, the prime opportunity is on the ride to and from school. Others converse best as a family at the dinner table. Some families even go around the table, each person sharing the best and worst part of his day. This becomes a habit and keeps the conversation going throughout the entire meal. I’ve noticed my daughter is usually excited to tell me about her school day on the ride home from school. However, at bedtime when we’re snuggling, she opens up to me about deeper things she’s been thinking about all day. That’s when we have the best conversations. Take notice of when your kids feel the most comfortable opening up to you.
Know What’s Going On
My daughter’s teacher sends a daily email letting us know what they learned that day, as well as fun things that happened. These emails are amazing, and I make it a priority to read the email before I pick her up from school. I’ve realized if I didn’t read up on some of the interesting things they did in the classroom that day, my daughter doesn’t think to mention them to me most of the time. Now I can say, “Did something special happen at recess today?” Usually she will get excited and tell me all about what was special that day. If your child’s teacher doesn’t send emails, try reading school newsletters, asking the teacher about the day when you pick your child up or getting to know your children’s friends and their parents.
Open Up About Your Day
Conversations are a two-way street. When you ask too many questions, kids may feel like they’re being interrogated. Open up and talk to them about your day. They love to hear what you did while they were in school. Speak with your spouse about his day in front of your children too. Modeling good communication with your spouse will encourage children to join in on the conversation each day. Before your know it, your kids will start asking, “How was your day, Dad?” and “What did you do at work today, Mom?”
Spend One-on-One Time Together
Going for a walk, cooking together or just watching a movie can help inspire conversation. When you’re doing something together, teens are much more likely to open up. In a laid-back setting, they might start a conversation with you that is much more meaningful to them than answering the many questions you ask them after school every day. Sometimes just letting kids know you’re there to talk can be the best advice, and when they’re comfortable, they will start the conversation.
Try out these 20 conversation-starters at the dinner table:
- Who is your best friend and why?
- What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
- What items are on your bucket list?
- What is your favorite way to spend your free time and why?
- If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What is your dream job?
- What is your most embarrassing moment?
- What traits do you admire most in people you know?
- What are your favorite things we do together as a family?
- What would you do if we could switch places for a day?
- What are the most interesting things about you?
- What are you most proud of in your life?
- What do you want to be when you grow up and why?
- If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
- What is your earliest memory?
- What would your perfect day consist of?
- If we could go anywhere on vacation, where would you want to go?
- What’s your favorite memory of us?
- What is your biggest fear?
- If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be, and what would you talk about?
Regan Lyons is a freelance writer who lives in St. Joseph, MO, with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.