Do you ever wonder what your kids may be feeling or thinking? With so many influences and problems in our world, it’s more important now than ever to talk to our kids to find out what is in their heads and in their hearts. What we have learned over the years is that getting them to talk is half the battle. When our kids don’t talk to us and are unwilling to share, there is normally something deeper going on or something they may be hiding.
Sometimes getting our kids to engage in a conversation can be disheartening and even frustrating. The good news is that you can get your kids to open up and engage with you by having the right tools and processes. These four steps can help you become the person your kids turn to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about the different seasons of their life. Remember, that at some point they will turn to someone for advice or to learn about what they will believe. If you’re not intentional in engaging with your kids you may be leaving a lot to chance and miss out on amazing blessings.
Rule #1. Don’t judge, coach.
One of the hardest things for parents is to listen without reacting. Remember what you are trying to do is to get your kids to talk and if you yell, bark, or judge them too quickly they may not open up to you again. Your opportunity to coach them will come when you have heard them out and know what’s going on in their heart and in their heads. Listening is the most important part of having a conversation. By listening you get to consider what they are really saying and feeling. Sometimes they are just talking through something and can come to a healthy decision or conclusion by themselves. Many times they are really asking for your input or advice on important issues by talking about it. As you listen, think about how you will respond to them as a coach would. Coaching them involves affirming them on the positive things they have said first and then asking them questions about the things you believe may be harmful or may need a healthy adjustment.
Rule #2. Be their greatest encourager.
By learning to respond with encouraging responses you will make them want to talk to you more often. By saying things such as, “Thank you for sharing that with me,” “You have great wisdom,” “You’re amazing,” or “You have such a great heart” and so on, you are actually affirming them and encouraging them to continue. When our kids do something or say something that we agree with, reinforce their statements with praise and you will instill the values you want for your children.
Rule #3. Tell stories of your own life.
Our kids are trying to figure out who they are and one way that can help them is by knowing more about your family and your life. It’s in these stories they learn about your values, the mistakes you learned from and what you believe in. Hearing stories also helps them to become great storytellers. It’s a very important part of learning to communicate with you and others in everyday life.
Rule #4. Ask open-ended questions.
Become an expert in asking questions that don’t have a yes or no answer. For example, asking, “Did you have a good day at school today?” will only solicit a head nod or a “yeah” or “nah” answer not the conversation you have in mind. If you rephrase the question and ask, “What was the best part of you day today?” you will certainly get a different response. This will take a little forethought but once you master it you begin great conversations with your kids.
Just get your kids to talk and you will start something that will encourage them and instill values. The first conversations may be short and may lack the depth you desire but start them anyway. With the conversation starters from the FreshTake meals and FreshTakeFamily.com website, you have an abundance of ideas to get you started and the coaching to stimulate deeper discussions. You will become the intentional parent your kids will turn to when they really need someone to listen.