Children don’t usually sit down and plan to have a conversation with us; it just comes. We have to be physically available to our children to stimulate conversation. And if we’re with them, we’ll hear what’s on their mind. If children constantly have to seek us out, wait for our schedules to be free or see a continued lack of interest or diverted attention, our children will eventually stop coming to us.
Be sensitive to your child’s primary needs. Some children are eager to chat. Others need time alone before opening up to conversation. If kids are starving, headed to the bathroom or just relaxing, they may not want to talk. Take care of the body before the mind.
Allow for conversation rituals and individual preferences. Whether it’s waking up, transitioning from school to home or night routines, some children may need time to play quietly or hang in their rooms before volunteering information and answering our questions. Many children will save their most intimate thoughts for “tuck-in time.” Even if your child no longer needs you to actually pull up the covers, just lingering a bit in their room before lights out is a safe and unhurried time to discover their thoughts and dreams.
Do things together. Riding in the car, doing chores together and having a snack are all good times for conversations. Conversations naturally emerge when people are working together. Children are more likely to initiate conversation when they feel your interest in being with them. Busy hands and conversations seem to be less intimidating and more natural. So spend time together.
Appreciate the silence. The comfort of being together, mother and child, without uttering a word, is time well spent. You’re building a comfortable relationship, enjoying the solitude of each other’s company.
Ask questions. Many children need a little prompting or gentle questioning to help them open up and share their thoughts. Try asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “How do you feel about…?” “What would you do if…?” “Help me understand. Tell me what happened.”
Gigi Schweikert is the president and COO of Lightbridge Academy and an expert in the field of early childhood education. She has managed corporate childcare centers and their educational programs for more than 30 years. Schweikert was the host of Today’s Family and is a bestselling author of eighteen books. Follow 1851 Franchise as she shares her tips on parenting and childcare.