Conversations with our kids are the BEST. The little things they say can brighten up even the most stressful days. Hearing their thoughts, concerns, and joys helps us understand them more deeply and build a trust that can last a lifetime. Whether they’re 3 or 13, it makes a mama’s heart so full to connect with our kiddos through conversation. But how do we get our kids to talk to us? How can we intentionally set aside space and time with our kids to have deep conversations? Here are a few ideas:
1. Eat family meals
Family meals are an amazing way to bond with your kids and encourage them to talk with you. The research on family meals is astounding – just a few of the benefits are increased self-esteem, higher academic performance, lower risk of depression, and lower rates of obesity.1 Even with young children, there are many fun ways to encourage them to talk to you. I love to give conversation starters during a family meal like, “Let’s go around the table and tell everyone your favorite thing about them” or “Let’s tell each other the best, the worst, and funniest thing that happened to us today.”
2. Take advantage of time in the car
We love our time in the car. Since my kids are 5, 3, and 9 months, having a conversation while they are buckled into their car seats is a dream. No one can run away ?! We love to play games together in the car – our favorites are “I Spy” and a simplified version of 20 questions.
Another thing I love to do from time to time is to ask them interview-style questions like, “Tell me about your favorite thing to do” or “What is your favorite place to go? What do you love about it?” As your kids get older, your questions may change, but the principle remains: take advantage of your time with your kids in the car, ask them deep, open-ended questions, and enjoy their answers. Recently my daughter told me, “Mommy, I love our long drives together as a family. We always get so much time to talk.” I feel the same way!
3. Go on “dates” with one kid at a time
With 3 kids, life can get a little hectic, and we don’t always get special one-on-one time with each kiddo. We have to be intentional in scheduling it to make sure it happens. We’ve started having mommy or daddy take each kid on a special outing to allow for a special time to connect with them. And we never regret it. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, those alone times can be so precious and allow them to open up to us in conversation.
4. Be completely available to them during reconnection times
My mom always used to say there was a window of time when we got home from school where we wanted to tell her about everything that happened that day. If she missed the window, though, we were already on to the next thing and not nearly as interested in talking.
I find this to be true with my kids any time there is a reconnection time with them . . . whether it’s those few minutes after I walk in the door after work or right after I pick them up from playing at a friend’s house, I try as much as possible to give them my undivided attention. They are always excited to tell me everything they can think of as quickly as possible. And then, within a few minutes, they are on to the next thing, completely disinterested. So, take a deep breath and a moment to yourself in your car after work or before you pick them up from pre-school, and get ready to engage and let that conversation flow when you see them.
We can all gain so much by connecting more deeply with our kids through conversation. They have so many great things to say that are easy to miss amid our busy days. But setting aside a few special times and spaces each day for deep conversations can make a world of difference!