Top tips to help you make sure the talk you have with your child is really supporting you to form a strong and close relationship.
Have you ever asked your child a question like ‘what did you do at school today?, only to be told ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘nothing much’?! Feeling deflated, you stop asking questions and the conversation finishes.
You are not alone! However, this doesn’t always need to be the case, so if you want to build your bond with your child using meaningful communication, read on for some helpful tips!
Why is it difficult to talk to my child?
It can sometimes feel quite difficult to engage in meaningful conversations with your children, and there can be a number of reasons for this, including:
*Generational divides – there is a significant age gap between you and your child, which can contribute to the feeling of being on different pages.
*Differences in interests – it is natural for adults and children to have quite separate interests (although, if you want some ideas of family hobbies, see my other article).
*A lack of quality time together – work, cleaning, social commitments, school, relaxing, holidays… sometimes it’s hard to fit it all in.
*Power imbalance – the adult – child relationship can be quite a difficult one to navigate, and is fraught with inequality and control issues.
*Too many distractions – many of us (parents and children) have access to a wide range of electronic devices, such as TVs and phones, which can have a negative impact on our bonds with each other.
*Communication issues – sometimes, your child can struggle to develop a wide vocabulary. If this is something which is affecting your child, there is more tips to improve your child’s vocabulary here).
These are just a few of the many issues which can impact how we communicate, but remember – none of these things make you a bad parent! There are also many significantly positive outcomes that stem from having different experiences and interests, and a lot that both parents and children can learn from each other.
What I believe is vitally important for your bond with your child is that you find some common ground for regular communication – which I know is sometimes easier said than done, so I have written the tips below to help you with this.
How can I start an effective conversation with my child?
Now I am not suggesting for one second that you fake an interest in your child in order to establish a conversation. But, what I am trying to convey is, like most things in life, communication sometimes needs a little bit of extra effort to ensure it is really effective. We all know that time is precious, so when we do have the time to be with each other, using the time for a great chat is a really good form of relationship building.
‘What do you enjoy about (football / gaming / drawing etc)? Why?’ This question works especially well with any hobby or favourite toy. It encourages your child to elaborate and reflect on what they find appealing about their interests, and gives you a window into their interests and things your child finds engaging. It also shows them that you care about the things they are interested in, and want to know more about them. (If you want some ideas of hobbies you can do with your child then check out this article).
‘How is (insert friends name here)?’ Asking about your child’s friends shows them that you care about their relationships with others, and remember important things about them. The older a child gets, the more important friendships become to them, so this question will promote a sense of connection between you and your child.
‘You look a little (sad). Do you want to talk?’ This question can be tailored to suit most emotions, for example ‘you look excited, has something exciting happened?’. By telling your child what you see about them, you show them that you notice how they are feeling, which promotes an emotional bond between you. By asking if they want to tell you anything, you are also showing your child you respect their decision to share (or not), and reminding them you are there as an emotional support when needed.
‘What would you do if…?’ You can make these questions imaginary scenarios about almost anything, such as friendship problems, safety issues or silly ideas. Asking this type of question gives you a great window into your child’s mind, and can give you an understanding of their thoughts and reactions in various situations. It also shows your child that are interested in their opinions in different scenarios.
‘Would you rather… or….?’ I always find this question is very appealing to children, and can be tailored to suit your child and the situation. Making it a playful choice promotes a bond through a shared sense of fun, and lets you understand more about their way of thinking.
‘Tell me how you thought of that wonderful idea’ Asking your child this question lets them know that you care about their internal thought processes, as well as their ideas. This gives them a sense of achievement and satisfaction, and gives you a greater understanding of the way they process different concepts.
‘What do you think about…? Why?’ This question works well with a range of subjects, especially world affairs or more ‘grown up’ topics, and shows your child you care about their thoughts and ideas. The fact that you want them to justify why they think something also shows them that you want to listen to their deeper thoughts on the topic.
Remember, even with the best effort in the world, sometimes your child just won’t want to talk, and that’s ok. Much like adults, children have quiet times as well as talkative moments, and I believe it is our job as parents to notice, respect and accept this.
If you want to use these tips in your parenting, I would recommend you start your self-reflection like this:
- Reflect on your areas of strength when it comes to communicating with your child, as well as the areas which could be further developed.
- Make an action plan to develop your weaker areas – how are you going to place more emphasis on these in your daily routine? How can you involve your child?
- Reflect on the reasons why communication with your child may not currently be as effective as it could be – are you too tired? Do you have limited time together? Are there unresolved issues or behaviour problems?
- Identify periods of ‘wasted time’ in your routine, such as car journeys and unnecessary TV watching – could you change something about these times to allow for more conversation to happen?
Do you have any top tips for promoting strong and purposeful communication with your children? Have you tried the tips above? I’d love to hear your comments in the reply box below, or on my social media pages.
Love, Heather x