Creative Child

Tips for Communicating with Kids

by Sarah Lyons

Communicating can be a challenge in any relationship but when it comes to our kids we can feel like it’s even more problematic to get them talking, especially when it comes to difficult topics. Every parent wants a healthy and open relationship with their children. How can you foster a relationship that encourages your children to share the ups and downs of their daily life?

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 Ask specific questions

When your child comes home from school and you ask “How was your day?” you may get the quick answer of “Fine.” and nothing else. Try to ask specific questions like “How did the math test go?” or “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” Listen to your child and ask follow up questions when possible. Roe Hunter, marriage and family counselor at Lifeworks Counseling in Madison, MS says “I suggest that you ask a question like “How are you today?” and then wait patiently. Allow for silence to feel uncomfortable. If the child is quietly thinking, wait some more.” Giving kids the time to speak when they are ready is key.

Show interest in what they love

“It is important to be aware and actively listening to your child.” says Hunter. “Tune into their desires, needs, wants and interests. Ask engaging and curious questions about what interests them.” When you show your child that you are interested in what excites them you are actually showing them you are interested in them as a person. We may not be thrilled by the latest toy craze, video game, or sports statistics but if we show kids we are interested in what they say and are really listening to them, it will make opening up about other, more difficult, topics easier in the future.

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Be a safe place

Kids will start to share when they feel secure and comfortable. “In order to get a kid to open up regardless of age, you must embody safety.” says Hunter. “Safe people are Secure. Aware. Forgiving. Empathetic. (S.A.F.E.)” Everyone needs a place they can feel secure and safe to share what they are feeling without judgement or criticism. When a child shares something that surprises for upsets you, remain calm. Listen and talk through the situation and try to be understanding. Overreacting or anger will cause the child to shut down.

Build a relationship over time

Relationships don’t happen overnight and building one will take time and trust. Parents begin building their relationships with kids from infancy. Your reactions to situations and relationships with others show your child how you will respond to them. Roe Hunter says “Getting kids to open up at any age can be challenging. When we model secure attachments not just with our children but with our spouse, friends, family members, and God; children take notice.” Establish a healthy relationship with your kids with your actions over time so that you become a safe and secure place when they need you.

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