Help your Child Talk with You
We should concentrate on having conversations with children. Research has shown that the brain structure of young children changes when they are regularly engaged in conversations with adults. Click here to see the study.
Here are some guidelines to help your child open up and talk with you more:
Try to ask non-judgmental questions:
I know you want to help, but try to avoid jumping in with solutions and advice. Your child needs a chance to vent and reflect. Questions that begin with ‘why’ may sound defensive to children; ‘Why did you…’ won’t work nearly as well as ‘What do you think..?’
Other examples of more effective kinds of questions include:
-‘Tell me more about...’ (If you want your child to expand on their comments.)
-‘What are some other ways of…?’ (Invites other alternatives and encourages children to voice their ideas.)
-‘What questions do you have about..?’ (Encourages your child to ask questions about what they want to know.)
-‘What makes you think/leads you to believe..?’ (Gives children and adolescents the opportunity to explain their perspective and reasoning behind things.)
-‘How do you feel about..?’ (My favourite!)
If your child wants to talk and share their problems with you, stop everything and listen to them:
Love is being present. However, being really there is not only about physical presence. The most valuable gift you can give your child or someone you love is your full attention, your true presence. Make sure you connect with your child every single day, even if just for a short time. Click here to know how to create a strong bond with them.
Use emotional vocabulary:
Our vocabulary matters! It is so important to encourage children to use words to express their emotions, but we often find ourselves repeating the same words. There's a large and varied vocabulary of emotion. For instance, apart from the word sadness we can use other words to talk about this emotion such as disappointed, disconnected, regretful, grief, dejected , discouraged, drained, bereaved, hopeless etc. Instead of happy, we can say excited, proud, optimistic, fantastic, delighted, contented…
Here are some examples of things to say that encourage an emotional connection:
-‘Oh, that’s so frustrating for you!’
-‘I understand that you’re sad. It’s okay to cry.’
-‘I think you think something is wrong. How can I help you?’
Here are some ideas age by age:
If your child is a pre-schooler you need to take into account that it requires a lot of work to explain how your day went. Synthesise all that information and put it into a sentence that’s going to please you, that’s why it’s much easier to say ‘I don’t know.’
To help them talk about their day, you can ask specific questions like:
-‘Did you go to … or … today?’ ‘Who did you play with?’ ‘Did you sing any songs today?’
-‘What did you like today, … or … ?’ (Include two choices such as lunch time or classroom time.)
- Ask questions about their emotions, such as ‘When I picked you up, you seemed happy. What happened?’ If your child says something negative about their day, show interest.
With little children, it’s really helpful to ask them as soon as they arrive. We need to spend a few minutes reconnecting with them instead of asking a lot of questions. You can create a space where the child can start to feel like talking. Be truly there and give your child the message that you’re available for them. When you feel it’s the right moment, you can ask questions about their day like:
-‘What made you feel good while you were at school today?’
-‘What do you wish was different?’
When they get older, it may be difficult to know what’s going on in their day. The key is to be there and listen. It’s crucial to focus less on solutions.