One of the most common questions I get from parents are about communication. Sometimes, it can be tricky to get your child to share openly with you. This can depends on many different factors; their energy level, hunger level, personality, emotional state, environment, etc.
What is important to remember, is that every child is different, and every parent is different. This means that the strategies your friend, sibling, or even partner uses to communicate with your child; might not work the same way for you.
Luckily, there are plenty of different strategies you can try our and tweak. That way, you can find out what works best for you and the relationship you have with your child. Of course, methods that you used a year, or two years ago, may not work as effectively today. Your child is developing and changing all the time. That is what makes this parenting thing so challenging. You are never quite done figuring out the best approach. So get ready to be kept on your toes!
Here are a few strategies your might consider using to encourage your child to share openly with you:
- Ask non-judgemental questions.- If a child feels as though you are waiting to pounce on them for misbehaviour, they are less likely to open open. Questions such as “What did you see on your Museum field trip?” are much more inviting than questions like “Did you behave on your Museum field trip?”
- Play question games- Games such as “Two lies and a Truth” can make it more entertaining and engaging for children to tell you bits about their day.
- Learning!- Ask what they learned at school rather than what they did. We all do so much in a day, there might be too much pressure in telling someone all that you did. However, identifying some thing you learned might be a little bit easier. As a bonus, this strategy will also help them to reflect and integrate their learning.
- Dig deeper- Comments such as “That sounds interesting. Tell me more about that.” or “I wish I knew more about earthquakes.” or “Can you give me an example?” Dig deeper into a specific topic, helping you to build a conversation rather than going through a one-way question routine. Be careful not to pressure a child too talk about too many specifics though, if they feel like they are being interrogated, they may lose interest and break away.
- Make Connections- connecting what your child is saying to previous experiences can help to ignite interest in the conversation and promote further and deeper sharing of thoughts and feelings. These connections could be personal, like a family holiday, or informative, like something you saw on TV together.
- Empathy!- Use expressive empathy skills such as reflecting back emotion, summarising what they said, making eye-contact, using an engaging and sympathetic tone of voice, etc. If your child sense you are sympathising with them and interested in what they are saying, they are much more likely to tell you more!
- Decrease pressure- sometimes having a face-to-face, sit-down conversation can seem too formal or pressurised. Conversations while you are doing the dishes or driving home from school are ideal for casual, low-pressure, catch-ups. Telling someone about your day should be relaxing and fun! So turn on some tunes and, ask a question, and see where the conversation takes you.
- Share about your own day!- Having a conversation that includes back-and-forth is much more relaxed than being questioned. It will also help your child to build empathy skills as they learn to appreciate all that you do for them in a day!