Meghan Skrepenski is the founder of Raising STRONG Boot Camps.
It’s hard as parents to keep finding ways to connect with our kids and ask them about their days. There are even apps for that!
So here are a few suggestions (in addition to these apps, which I haven’t yet used) that I know are proven to work.
Yes or no?
Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.
Instead of “How was your day?”, suggest “Tell me about your day,” and wait for them to share at least one story from it. Don’t just allow “It was fine” as an answer.
You wouldn’t think this has to be repeated and written in capital letters like I am yelling at you. But it does.
Put down your phone, book, paper or whatever distraction there is for at least 5 to 10 minutes each day after school or around dinner time and just listen to your child tell you about their day.
They will realize that you really do intend to listen, even if it’s just about the little things … and this will make them more likely to want to talk to you about the bigger things in life when you REALLY want them to talk to you and to know that you are there for them.
Let me tell you about my child …
Brag on your kids.
Just like our spouses or significant others, your co-workers or your friends … compliments go a loooonnnggg way!
First, because it makes the person you are complimenting feel good and recognition for a job well done is never a bad thing.
But secondly, because when we teach our kids that we value their hard work and we want to tell everyone about it, guess what we get more of?!?
Hard work! Focused attention on doing or being their best!
Our kids need to know that we value their hard work and their successes (and their failures, too) because it powers and inspires them to keep trying even when it’s tough, even when they question if it’s worth it, or when they wonder why they are doing it.
Knowing that they will receive accolades will make them feel good for a job well done.
Failure is OK
Let your kids know you don’t expect them to be perfect, but you want them to be…
Ok, I am kidding here a little bit, but often kids try so hard that they feel like they will let us down if they fail. And it’s devastating to them to lose, to fail or to not see the success that they wanted.
My kids know that I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I do expect them to try their best.
This allows my kids to know that I will push them to excel and to focus on the task before them, but they don’t need to worry about or hang onto past failures. We can take those as learning experiences and grow from them.
Also, be sure to point out some of your failures in your life and how you learned from them. Letting your kids know that you aren’t perfect as well is actually a relief to them!
If at first you don’t succeed …
Just keep swimming.
When your kids don’t want to talk about how their day went one day, give them a little room and let them know that you care about them and want to know what they did that day. Then talk (just a bit) about your day.
If they decide to open up and talk to you a bit after that — CONGRATS! You have breached the “I don’t want to talk about it” barrier.
But if they still don’t want to talk, just let them know you are there. And when they do come to talk to you, be ready to put down whatever has your attention at that moment and be ready to listen. (See point 2 above!).
As parents, we are often trying to figure this out as we go. (I know I didn’t get a user manual when my kids were born. But then I wouldn’t have had time to read it anyway! Ha!).
Apps and electronics are nice — but they’re not required to really connect with your kids.
Just be ready, be there and truly listen to what your kids are trying to tell you. You’ll be well on your way to creating the open communication that you both want.