How to Encourage Kids to Share with You
"How was your day?", you might ask from the front seat as you pull away from school. No answer from the kid in the back. "I was wondering how your day was", you repeat. "Fine", he answers. "Did you do anything fun?", you try. "Not really", he replies.
If having a conversation with the child in your care is like pulling teeth, you're not alone. It is important to understand what is going on in kids' lives, but many caregivers struggle with encouraging kids to talk openly.
So, how do you get kids to open up? Every kid is different, but here are some time-tested tactics to try.
Listen: When your child does talk to you, listen attentively, even if it's about Pokemon or the latest pop star, or something else you care nothing about. Show your child you care, though, about what he or she has to say by listening without interrupting.
Don't give advice constantly: this is counterintuitive for parents sometimes, but if you want kids to come to you for advice, don't constantly give it unsolicited. Most kids react negatively to sharing about their day only to be told definitively how to handle a situation with their friends, how to start liking science class more, or how to improve their relationship with siblings. Conversely, when you don't constantly give advice, but instead affirm them when they share, kids are more likely to seek out your guidance when they truly need it.
Accompany them in their successes and their challenges: Some kids shut down when they feel that adults are constantly judging their performance, whether it be in school, socially, or on the sports fields. How you word your questions can help indicate to kids that you are not constantly measuring them by specific standards; rather, that you want to provide support and guidance when needed. For example, rather than saying "Did you ace that test today?", you might try saying "I remember you saying you had a test today, were you happy with how you did?"
Kids need trust-filled conversations with parents and adult mentors. How you approach these conversations makes a big difference in how comfortable they are truly sharing their daily joys and sorrows.
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