Talking often and openly with your children is — quite obviously — incredibly important.
It strengthens your bond, gives you insight into their feelings, keeps you on top of any struggles they may be dealing with, and significantly, it lets them know you’re there for them when they need you.
Plus, we’ve discussed how important family time is on several occasions, and how speaking with your children in certain moments will keep them engaged, help them to focus, and even to be less reliant on technology.
Car trips and meal times are perfect opportunities to spark up meaningful and productive conversations with your kids.
But particularly for young kids, sometimes getting more than a one-word answer can be like pulling teeth!
So how do we engage with children in a way that will benefit you both?
The trick is to not sound too detective-like, says author Maxabella, and this is a sentiment echoed by our own Christina Rigoli.
Maxabella suggests avoiding ‘Did’ questions, while Christina recommends avoiding ‘Why’ questions.
While the former can elicit the all-too-common one-word-response (yes, no), ‘why’ can come off as accusatory or suspicious.
‘What’ questions, on the other hand, are more engaging, and require a more descriptive response.
So try questions like:
What was the funniest thing you heard all day?
What was your favourite thing that happened today?
What subject was the most interesting today?
What did you enjoy most about your lunch today?
These questions will show your kids that you’re interested in their day, and will more often than not lead to a positive and open conversation.
But Dani recommends going a step further.
‘Try asking questions that relate to a range of different emotions.’
So in addition to the positive questions above, she recommends asking things like:
What was something frustrating that happened to you today?
What was something that was difficult for you, but you did it anyway?
Was there a time that you felt frustrated? And what did you do about it?
Not only does this help kids identify and recognise different feelings and the emotional responses that they have to certain things, it also teaches them an important life lesson.
‘Asking a range of questions like this helps kids to learn from a young age that it’s not simply that something bad happens, and then you have a bad day. Or that something good happens, and then it’s a great day’, says Dani.
‘The point is that the day is filled up with lots of little moments, and that you recover from those moments, good or bad. Talking about them can make them realise that.’
And that’s a good lesson even for some adults to learn!
It’s not our fault that both kids and adults tend to focus on the negative things that happen to them — our brains are actually wired that way.
‘But just talking about them can make it easier’, Dani reassures.
‘By talking about all these moments in our day out loud, and sharing them with someone else, it makes you realise that you can come back from the negative things, while reaffirming the positive things that happened and cementing them in your mind.’
So while you go about asking your kids these questions about their day, try offering up some answers to them of your own.
It might just make you feel better about the hard parts…
And you might be pleasantly surprised to see how interested your kids are in knowing about it.
P.S. To get the most out of these conversations, don’t forget to work on your listening skills!