Kid Talk: Getting your kids to open up about their day

There are times when facing your child across the dinner table can feel like conversing with a brick wall.  Pointed questions yield monosyllabic answers that are more like caveman grunts than actual language.  You remember perfectly well that just a few years ago he would spend an hour telling you about a ladybug that crawled on his arm, and now you can barely elicit a nod.  What the heck happened to the vociferous child you remember?  When did he get replaced by a pod person festooned with electronics and ear buds?  Well, if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone.  Most kids go through phases of personal growth in which they will try to separate themselves from your influence.  This is a pretty natural process and it will end eventually, but in the mean time, you want to find some way to connect with your child.  You want to know if he’s worried, concerned, or even perfectly content.  You want to be part of his life!  And luckily, there are ways to get your kid talking again.  Even if it’s only to swap pleasantries, it’s a starting point that you can build on.

  1. Make time. Setting a certain time for communication will get your kid in the habit.  Whether you open the conversation when he walks in the door, at the dinner table, or before he goes to bed, make sure you ask the same questions each time.  Repetition will make him comfortable and relaxed, a more open state for discussing his day.
  2. Ban electronics. If you have chosen to give your child an iPod, cell phone, handheld game device, or any other electronics that allows him to ignore you when you speak, you might want to impose a ban for certain times of day, such as at the dinner table.  It will be a lot easier to hold his attention if he’s not engaged in texting friends or updating his online profile while you’re trying to talk.
  3. Keep it casual. Don’t jump immediately into his latest Facebook post about a fight with a friend.  Instead, lead in with something more casual to get him ready to talk before you broach a touchy subject.  And if he doesn’t seem ready to talk, don’t push the subject.  Let him know you are available whenever he wants to discuss it.
  4. Listen attentively. There is nothing worse than asking your kid to talk about a delicate topic and then interrupting him every five seconds with opinions or advice.  Resist the urge to inject wisdom into every gap.  Like most people, he’s probably perfectly capable of working things out on his own and he just needs a sounding board.  If he asks for your advice, try to remain neutral and encourage him to make his own decision.  Enumerate the pros and cons if he seems hesitant, but refrain from telling him what to do.  Treat your child like the capable person you raised rather than a little kid and he’s more likely to see you as a confidant.
  5. Don’t judge. The absolute worst thing you can do when your child opens up to you is to take an accusatory stance.  Be sympathetic and reserve judgment, even if his best friend posted a nasty rumor about him on Facebook.  It can be tempting to take his side, but you know they’ll be fast friends again by next week and everything you said to make him feel better will seem pretty awful on reflection.  Ditto if he’s done something wrong.  He no doubt feels bad about it already and an upbraiding from you will only make it worse.  Certainly you must discipline your child, but if you want to get to the root of the problem, he’s got to be able to trust you.  And if he thinks you’re going to judge him harshly, he’ll tune in, turn on, and drop right out of the conversation.

[Sarah Mitchell writes for All Cases where you can browse through a variety of shipping and carrying cases to suit your personal and business needs.]

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