How do I get better at communicating with my child?
Sometimes getting your child or teen to talk to you can feel a bit uncomfortable. Here are some activities you can do together that can lead to natural conversation and better communication.
- Play a board game.
- Do a puzzle.
- Share a meal or treat.
- Go for walks.
- Read books and discuss.
- Color or draw.
- Take turns playing DJ- you play a song you like, then they pick a song.
- Have a shared notebook-Write notes to each other or leave open ended questions.
Tips to Improve Communication with your Child or Teen:
Connecting with your child is important for building trust in your relationship. Learning how to communicate can help deepen your connection with your child. Communication is also an important social skill that you can model for them at home.
- Ask Open Ended Questions. Show interest by asking them questions about their thoughts, feelings and interests.
- Open-ended questions are questions that don’t have a yes or no answer.
- For example asking: “How was your day?” or “Tell me about your day?” vs. “Did you have a good day?”
- Other ideas include:
- “If you could be an animal, which one would you be and why?”
- “If you could do whatever you want tomorrow, what would you do?”
- “What do you like about your friends?”
- “Would you rather?” questions
- Practice Active Listening. Active listening makes a person feel understood and safe to open up. Some active listening skills include:
- Put away any distractions and give your child your full attention.
- Get down on your child’s level by sitting next to them.
- Listen and try to understand before responding.
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues or what they are not saying.
- Reflect back to them what you hear them saying to make sure you understand correctly.
- Notice and Praise Your Child’s Strengths. It can be easy to become focused on challenging behavior in your child and get stuck in patterns of negative communication. Focus on what your child is doing right, even if it is small and let them know you appreciate it.
- “I saw you share your toy with your brother, that was really nice of you.”
- Use positive language whenever possible. Children hear “no” all day long and this can cause them to focus on what they aren’t supposed to be doing instead of what you would like them to do. For example:
- Saying “Please walk!” Instead of “Don’t Run!”
- Instead of “No, we can’t go to the park” say, “The park sounds fun, let’s go tomorrow after school.”
Don’t shy away from hard topics. It is important for kids to know that they can come to you with their problems. Initiate age-appropriate conversations about difficult subjects such as sex, alcohol, drugs, self-harm, etc. and your child or teen will feel more comfortable coming to you when they need help.
Books for kids and teens about communication
- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
- Mama, Do You Love Me? By Barbara M. Joosse and Barbara Lavallee
- The Little Book of Conversation Starters: 375 Entertaining and Engaging Questions by Cider Mill Press