Ever feel like you have to interrogate your kids just to get them to talk? Help them want to open up more with one of these tips!
When kids are little, they can talk – a lot.
And when they’re smack dab in the middle of the question phase, it’s not uncommon to end a day having answered about 2,354,327 questions.
How is it then, that kids can seemingly turn into extreme introverts overnight?
They move from talking about anything and everything to uttering nothing more than half a grunt in response to whatever you say. And just as you were getting used to being pelted by rapid-fire questions on a daily basis, your questions are now met with one-word answers and you’re left feeling awkward about how to get your kids to open up to you.
Is that the end? Will you ever be able to get your kids to talk to you again?
If you’ve ever wondered this, rest assured. You’re not alone. Even the best parent-child relationships encounter this at some point.
It doesn’t matter how great of a relationship you have with your kids – some days, it’s going to be hard to get the dialogue going. And it’s perfectly normal to feel awkward or receive pushback when trying to start a conversation with one of your kids.
But know that your efforts aren’t wasted.
Each time you engage with your kids, you’re laying stones for a stronger foundation and a greater relationship. And that’s something they’ll need as they grow into adolescence, especially when things get hard.
Now let’s go over some tricks for breaking that ice and getting your non-talkers to open back up.
HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO TALK TO YOU
Talking with your kids reminds them that you care. About them, about their interests, and about their everyday experiences.
But what if they won’t talk? What if none of your old tricks work anymore?
Believe it or not, kids are usually willing to talk. But they’re growing and changing – and so are their conversation habits. With the right nudging, however, you can jump-start conversations and get the dialogue going again.
And who knows, they just might surprise you with what they have to say.
Not every conversation will be life-altering, of course. But you never know which ones will leave the biggest impact on them.
Now, getting the conversation started is often the hardest part. So here are 9 strategies that can make it feel more natural:
1. THINK LIKE A MIRROR
One of the easiest ways to get a conversation going with kids is to simply take their lead. Start by taking something they say and repeating it back to them.
For example if your child says, “I like that dog,” you could extend the conversation like this:
“Wow, you like that dog? My friend growing up used to have a dog just like that. My favorite dog is a boxer. What kind of dogs do you like?”
At this point, it feels much more natural to ask questions because the ice has already been broken.
By starting with what your kids say, you’re showing them that you are listening – and that you are actually interested in what they have to say. And before long, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a legitimate conversation.
2. SKIP THE INTERVIEWS
No one likes to be pounded with questions, especially after a long day at school. Questions like, “What’s your favorite dessert?” or “Do you like school?” will usually only lead to one-word answers.
Not great for getting conversations started. Instead, try questions that invite your kids to describe, such as “What do kids actually do at recess?”
3. DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE
For example, if you see your child drawing a picture, you might say something like, “I see you drew a tall tower here. What’s that next to the tower?”
Easing into a conversation this way will get you a lot farther than a well-intentioned compliment such as, “Cool picture.”
4. GET CURIOUS
Asking direct questions may work sometimes. But usually, they’ll get you nothing more than an “I don’t know” or a one-word answer.
So change how you ask questions. Here are two ways:
Use “I Wonder…” Start by stating a fact, and then use a leading question. For example, instead of “What’s wrong?” you might try, “When I picked you up today, you looked upset. I wonder if something happened with one of your friends?”
Change to the negative. It’s good to focus on the positive, right? But sometimes, kids are more willing to talk when they get to express the hard parts of their day. For example, “What’s the worst part about school?” might surprise your child enough to get them talking and get you farther than “What do you like about school?”
5. HOLD THE ADVICE
Advice and input are great. But when you’re lucky enough to get your kids to talk to you, hold off. Let them take the lead, and let them do most of the talking.
If they ask for your advice, then go ahead and give it. Otherwise, hold off and just listen. Sometimes talking out loud is all your kids need to work through their thoughts, especially when they know you are listening judgment-free.
Another quick tip is to guard your reaction. Overreacting could send the wrong message. Instead, simply offer empathy and a listening ear.
6. USE DISTRACTION
One of the best ways to get kids to talk is to disguise your efforts with physical activity such as doing the dishes together, shooting hoops, or going on a walk.
Kids are often able to open up more, especially about sensitive topics, when they know they don’t have to make eye contact and they have something to do with their body.
7. BE READY TO MOVE ON QUICK
Kids have short attention spans, even the older ones. So be prepared to switch topics often.
When they switch, it doesn’t mean you failed at keeping their interest. In fact, it means they’re ready to take you with them as they move on to the next thing that popped into their minds.
8. USE HUMOR
Nothing catches a child’s attention quicker than an adult doing or saying something silly.
So when all else fails, do something that will get your kids giggling or rolling their eyes. Grab them for an impromptu waltz session in the kitchen, spill your drink, or sneeze way louder than you need to.
Anything to show them that you are still human (even if you are “ancient” in their eyes), and still very much interested in spending time with them.
9. PREPARE FOR THE INCONVENIENT
This tip comes last because it’s the most important. Kids are usually more willing to talk than we realize – but most often, it has to be on their terms.
In my experience, the most meaningful conversations with my children are the ones I’m least prepared for.
My kids sometimes sneak out way past bedtime to tell me about the hardest part of their day. Or make a desperate attempt to tell me about something important to them, even though we’re late getting out the door. They even seem to save their best stories for the times I’m most distracted – like dealing with a crying baby while trying to save a burning dinner on the stove.
It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that they are actually opening up to me. I have to try my best to give them my full attention. Because I know from experience, that if I get upset and then try to pick up the conversation later, it rarely works. The moment has passed.
Of course, I’m not always able to drop everything and listen fully. I do, however, try my best to communicate that I truly want to hear them. And that if they’ll wait, I’ll be all theirs soon.
It’s not always perfect, but it works most of the time.
IN THE END, THE BEST WAY TO GET YOUR KIDS TO TALK IS TO SIMPLY LISTEN
It won’t always be easy to get your kids to talk to you. But keep at it. Every effort counts.
And while they may not remember what was said, they’ll remember that you were there. Sometimes to talk, but mostly to listen.
And your relationship will be stronger because of it.
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS:
- How To Mistake-Proof Your Relationship With Your Child
- Simple Ways To Help Your Child Feel Absolutely Loved
- 6 Times Your Child Needs You Most: How To Be A More Present Parent
- Can I Really Fit In One On One Time With Multiple Kids?
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