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Saturday, March 19, 2016 by Sharol Preisser

How to Encourage Conversations With Your Kids

As any parent knows, getting children to discuss their day in boy.jpga meaningful way can be tough.  After a long day of school, most kids just want to relax when they get home.  You, however, are eager to hear all about their day and the interesting experiences they’ve had. So, how can you get and keep the conversation going?

  • First, recognize that kids are tired after school and often need some time to relax before they have the energy to engage in extensive conversation. Avoid the temptation to initiate a barrage of questions as soon as they walk in the door or jump in the car. Giving your kids a bit of time to unwind after school (and probably a snack or two), will work wonders on their ability and willingness to communicate with you. 
  • Next, it’s important to consider your questions carefully and mix it up from day to day. Stay away from questions that allow for a one-word answer. Try to focus on areas of interest for your child. If your child loves sports, initiate a line of questioning related to the sport or sports they enjoy. If your child appreciates academics, focus your questions there. All of us are much more likely to engage more deeply in conversations that revolve around personal interests.  
  • Finally, be a good listener. You asked the question, now it’s your job to really listen to the answer. Don’t expect your child to be eager to converse with you if you’re busy doing five other actions and checking your email while they are responding to your question. Once you’ve asked, stop what you are doing, make eye contact with your child, and demonstrate that you’re really listening by asking insightful follow up questions. By giving your undivided attention to your child’s response, you are communicating to your child that their response is important to you and your child will appreciate that and put more effort into the conversation.
Below are some sample questions (in no particular order) that have yielded fruitful responses from my own children. They don’t always work, but more often than not I’m able to get the conversation started using one or more of these. Good Luck and Happy Chatting!
  • What was the best part of your day today?
  • Who did you play with at recess today?  What did you play?
  • How do you choose teams at recess?
  • What made you laugh today?
  • What did you learn today that was easy (or hard) for you?
  • What was the most interesting thing you learned today?  What did you find interesting about that?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch?
  • Did you have a disagreement with anyone today and how did you work it out?
  • Tell me about the story the teacher read to your class today?
  • Did you get to do anything special or unusual at school today? (This works best if you know in advance that there is a field trip, guest speaker, assembly, etc)
  • Did anything happen today that made you feel proud?

How do you start meaningful conversations with your kids? Leave your tips in the comment section below.