Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School Week: Talking to your children

On this 4th day of our "Back to School" series, I will talk about conversation starters and creative methods to talk to children.
In my initial post this week, I mentioned how important it is to talk to children in an effort to better understand them and to validate their feelings, but how CAN WE talk to children?  What can we ask that will prompt them to reveal themselves to us?  How can we earn their trust?
Even though talking to children sounds like an easy task, sometimes as parents we are surprised by how difficult it can be to find proper conversation starters and engage children in productive talks.
I often struggle to find ideas that will keep my children interested and deep in conversation.  Let's take the first day of school as an example; I went to pick up my kids from school and naturally the first thing that came out of my mouth was "how was your first day?"...they quickly replied in unison "fine!"...and I said "just fine?" and followed it by another question "what did you on your first day?"...they looked at me and said "nothing!"... I know my children didn't spend 8 hours of their day doing "nothing" but how could I respond to that? The conversation was naturally short and the few things they DID tell me about their day I literally had to pry out of them... not fun!

A few months I came across a great website called "Creative with Kids", it focuses on what they call "joyful parenting for real people"... I REALLY like their concept and my favorite part is a section about "Connecting with Kids" where several activities for prompting kids to communicate are described in depth.  But in addition to their wonderful website, the writers also have several ebooks that are so helpful when it comes to conversing with children; I particularly love one that is called "Conversation Starters: Listening Now so Kids Keep Talking Later"; I have enjoyed reading this little book so much and have been able to have so many fruitful conversations with my children.
So because I loved this book (and website) so much, I have decided to share some of my favorite conversation starters with you.  Here are just a few of the questions I have gathered from the ebook:
  1. Tell me about your friends? What makes them your friends?
  2. When/how will you know that you are a grown up?
  3. If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?
  4. What is the most important quality a person can have?
  5. Tell me about someone who is not your friend, why?
  6. What is something that makes you smile?
  7. What is something that makes you worry?
  8. What is the first memory you have?
  9. Ask me something you have always wanted to know.
  10. Name three things about yourself that you like and one that you don’t.
Of course most of these questions can be adjusted to fit your child's age and maturity level and there are TONS more on that little book. 

Also, I strongly recommend the "Q&A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal", which is an amazing 3-year journal that will prompt your kid to answer a daily question for 3 consecutive years; the book has 365 questions (one per day) and it is designed to be a "time capsule" where kids deposit their daily thoughts and can relive them every year by answering the same question on any given day.  It truly is one of the most highlights of our day with the kids! :)

I will end this post by encouraging all parents to TALK WITH their children rather than AT their children. Kids enjoy being heard and understood and daily conversations foster long term communication and healthy relationships.  Also, talking to children during the first week of school is incredibly important to understand their expectations and disposition for a successful school year! 

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