Conversations with our kids are the BEST, right? The little things they say can brighten up even the most stressful of days. Hearing their thoughts, concerns, and joys helps us to understand them more deeply and to 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 them to talk to us? How can we be intentional about setting aside space and time to get your kids to talk to you and 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. Even with young children, there are so many fun ways to encourage them to talk to you during a family meal. I love to give conversation starters like, “let’s go around the table and tell everyone your favorite thing about them” or “lets tell each other the best, 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 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 still remains: take advantage of the time you have 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 exactly the same way!
3. Go on “dates” with one kid at a time
With 3 kids, life can get a little bit crazy, and we don’t always get special one-on-one time with each kiddo. We have to be intentional to schedule it to make sure it happens. We’ve started having mommy or daddy take each kid on a special outing to allow for special time to connect with them. And we never regret it. Even if its just a walk around the block, those alone times can be so precious and really allow for them to open up to us in conversation.
4. Be completely available to them during reconnection times
My mom always used to say that 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 friends’ 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.
There is so much we can all gain by connecting more deeply with our kids through conversation. They have so many great things to say that are so easy to miss in the midst of our busy days. But, if we can set aside a few special times and spaces each day for deep conversations, it can make the world of difference!