Parents can often be frustrated by their kids' unwillingness to share their lives with them. Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, there will be times when it's difficult to "break through" and find out what's really going on.
Here are ten ideas on how to create opportunities for your kids to open up and share their lives with you.
1. Don't try so hard to get them to talk.
The harder you try to get them to talk, the more they'll resist you. When you relax the pressure a bit, they'll sense it and be more ready to talk to you.
2. Slow down your own life and be available.
Kids have a keen sense of how busy you are. If you're providing enough down time for you and your kids, they'll be more likely to feel comfortable talking to you.
3. Engage in a physical activity that they enjoy.
Shooting baskets, playing soccer, or a game of catch may have your child chattering away. Moving the body can serve to move the mouth as well!
4. Be as non-judgmental as possible.
If your kids feel they won't be judged when they talk to you they'll have no reason to hold back. Have a sense of curiosity and wonder about what they're saying, and limit the lectures about what's right or wrong.
5. Use open-ended questions.
Questions that begin with "why" tend to create defensiveness, and yes or no questions won't get you much of a response. Learn to use questions that will stimulate conversation. "What did you notice about that picture?" works better than, "Did you like that picture?"
6. Use the car as a place for conversation.
You've got them and they can't get out! Don't allow video games or other toys to interfere with your opportunity to talk with them.
7. Reflect back what you hear from them.
It's still the best way for your kids to feel heard and the best way to encourage them to expand on the subject.
8. Talk to them while they're coloring, painting, or drawing.
Using these activities to allow your kids to express themselves can have them expressing themselves to you as well. And joining in on the activity yourself can produce an even greater sense of connection and sharing.
9. Provide opportunities for fun and excitement.
Whatever the activity, when your kids are doing something they love to do they'll want to share it with you. Provide these for your kids and listen to them talk about it afterward!
10. Be a friend as well as a parent.
While you must be a parent first, being a friend to your kids will help them to want to share with you. Don't overdo the strict parental stuff!
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, is the author of 25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers (http://www.markbrandenburg.com/father.htm). For more great tips and action steps for fathers, sign up for his FREE bi-weekly newsletter, Dads, Don't Fix Your Kids, at http://www.markbrandenburg.com