How hard is it to get your kids talking? This varies quite a bit by age and personality. The toddler who narrates every minute of their day may become the teen who doesn’t want to talk about anything. You know communication with your kids is important, but it can be so difficult to get your kids talking. The question is how.
What works will change as you kids get older. Bringing out the board games for a family game night may get kids talking at one age, but be greeted with rolling eyes at another. Or they might play the game, but still not want to talk about what’s going on in their lives.
Let It Happen Naturally
This is my first recommendation to get your kids talking because it often works. Don’t pressure your kids to talk unless there’s a reason for it.
There will be times when you need to draw your kids out to have a good conversation, such as when you notice a change in mood, behavior, academics, interest in friends and so forth. Those are the times when you may need to give your child an extra nudge or ten to get them to open up to you.
But if all you do is push your kids to talk to you, they might feel pressured, which will make them reluctant to open up. Just think about how you felt at certain times in your childhood about having to talk about what was going on. Sometimes opening up was the best thing. Other times it wasn’t.
The easiest ways to get your kids talking is to give them lots of opportunities. Take one on one time with each child as opportunities arise. Go on a hike. Take them out for a special treat. Watch a movie together.
Sometimes the best opportunities come when you don’t expect them. My teen daughter and I got talking one evening in the garage (it’s set up as a play and relaxation zone for the kids), and kept it up past one in the morning. We considered making it a sleepover out there, but since there were actual plans for the morning decided to go to sleep in our rooms instead.
Suffice it to say that was a very good conversation. Ones like that don’t happen often, but they’re so much fun. But they can’t be planned. They come from letting things just happen.
Talk As A Family
It can also help if you all have conversations regularly as a family. That’s one of the good things about having at least one meal a day together at the table, no screens allowed. The conversations can flow all around the table without singling any one person out. That can ease the pressure some kids complain about when their parents keep asking them about their day.
Family game night is good for this as well. Give everyone a chance to pick the game so that no one is left out of it all of the time. This is especially important if there’s a wide range of ages or game interests.
We’ve had some interesting game nights where three kids were playing two different two person games at the same time, with the older ones taking turns playing the game the youngest really wanted with her. Everyone was happy with the solution and there was plenty of chatter.
Don’t Insist That It Be On Your Schedule
Kids do not always want to talk when you want them to. That’s okay. If they want to be quiet on the ride back home from school, it might just be so that they can wind down from their day.
I’ve found that if I let my teen be quiet on the days she doesn’t have anything she wants to talk about on the ride home, she really opens up when she needs to talk. I hear about it when a teacher or classmate is giving her problems. I hear about it when she’s worried about a friend. She even tells me the fun stuff sometimes. I don’t know that I would hear all that if I demanded a detailed answer about her day every time.
Talking to your kids shouldn’t be an interrogation, most of the time. Making a habit of having pleasant conversations will make it easier at those rare times when you need to be more insistent on a particular conversation.
But even if a particular conversation is urgent, you can often give your kids some downtime first if they need it. Difficult conversations are easier if both parties are relaxed.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Asking your kids open ended questions can help get them talking. It’s harder to give a short answer to an open ended question.
Of course, this doesn’t always work. How often have you asked your kids how their day went, and the only answer you get is that their day was fine. I get the single word answer pretty often to that one.
If you want your open ended questions to get interesting answers, you need to make the questions more interesting. If you ask the same thing day after day, you’re going to get a boring answer most days. Ask different questions each day to encourage them to talk more. Here are some question ideas to get you started.
When your kids tell you about something that surprises you, worries you or otherwise makes you want to react strongly, try not to overreact.
Overreacting to things your kids tell you make it harder for them to tell you things in the future. It can even make them feel awkward telling you more about the thing you’re overreacting to.
If your kids think that you’re going to overreact to things you tell them, they won’t want to talk to you about them. It can be scary hearing about drug users at their school or uncomfortable dealing with a question about sex that you weren’t expecting, but a calm reaction will help your kids feel comfortable in these conversations. Your calm reaction might help them take your perspective more seriously on those big topics.
Do Things They Like With Them
Time you spend just having fun with your kids gives you opportunities to talk. This doesn’t have to be planned in advance or involve going anywhere together.
Play video games together. Make something. Play together. Things like this open up opportunities to talk naturally.
If you want to get your kids talking, you have to really listen, in ways that they know you’re paying attention. Ignore your phone and computer.
Some conversations with your kids everyone in the family can get involved with. Other times you may need to move to a more private place to get things going. Each has their advantages. That one on one time can be vital, but having more people in the conversation can take the pressure off.
Start Conversations Yourself
Not every conversation with your kids has to be you asking them questions. Talk to them about your day, current events, favorite shows or whatever you enjoy talking about with your kids. Don’t make every conversation about them.
Let Them Talk To Someone Else
There may be times when no matter what you try, your child just doesn’t want to talk about a problem. Try not to take it too personally, and think about someone else they might be willing to talk to. An aunt, uncle, grandparent, older cousin, family friend, etc., might be able to talk to your child about things they don’t want to tell you.
Don’t get upset about this. It’s normal. Be glad that they have someone they trust and can open up to. With luck, talking to someone else will eventually lead to them talking to you as well. But if it doesn’t, you can hope they got good advice elsewhere.