As the mom of middle school age boys, I seem to live in a world where most of my questions to my children only get one word answers. Getting a child to talk about their day, sometimes feels like I am pulling teeth. Having a full conversation about a topic can take some work. As my children progress into their teen years though, I want to make sure we keep the lines of communication open. Over the years, I have come up with a few ways to get the conversation started and keep the conversation rolling.
I realized that if I wanted my sons to tell me about their day, I needed to model that behavior for them. I start by talking about a story that occurred while I was at work or while I was running an errand without them. Honestly, I think my day can be kind of boring, but I am amazed how a story I tell my kids they can find a way to relate to their lives. Then, once I share, my children seem much more willing to throw their two cents in and talk about their day. I have heard so many descriptions of random moments in their lives this way. As a side benefit, they now know more about what I do during the day while they are at school.
The one sure fire way to get my kids talking is if I discuss what they want to talk about, even if I have no interest. My oldest will talk your ear off about sports. He loves to discuss the different plays of games, and talk about the score of the latest big game. I personally could care less about this topic! But if I want him to have a conversation with me, I know I have to meet him at his level. So you will find me, googling the score on a game from the night before, or pumping my co-workers for information about what exactly happened at the big championship game that probably everyone else, except me, actually watched on TV. I am then ready to talk to my son about something that interests him. Of course, once we have talked a bit about his chosen topic, I do steer the conversation towards what I want to know!
One tip I recently heard was a family would all choose one word and agree to use it in conversation sometime during the day. At the end of the day, they would share how they used the word in conversation and the situation that surrounded that. I thought this was a great idea, and would be perfect for younger kids who have vocabulary words assigned from school. Once again it was a way for them to talk about their day, and also improve their vocabulary skills. This would definitely be a win all around. This is something we are going to try.
The big thing I have noticed when trying to get my kids to open up is I need to be specific. Just saying, “How was your day?” is too broad a topic, and often leads to the response of, “Fine.” So now I ask more pointed questions, such as what was one good thing or one bad thing that happened in class today, or what was one thing you learned today in school that you didn’t know before. Do I still get one word answers to lengthy questions? Sure. After using these tips though, I do feel that we’ve gotten better at talking and sharing. If I want my child to talk about their day, I have some ideas to fall back on and can get the conversation rolling. And hopefully, now that we have these lines of communications open we will be able to tackle the big topics as they come up as my kids navigate through the world.