Whether your kids are six or sixteen, all of us savvy North Jersey parents know that our eager questions about your student’s school day may be met with non-committal grunts, or wonderful one word phrases like “Fine.” We all know you’re supposed to keep the lines of communication open, but when the conversation is one-sided you may want to throw in the towel and not waste your breath.
Not being able to talk with your kids is really frustrating. But there are ways to get them to open up to you that go beyond; “How was your day?”
Timing is everything
It’s best not to interrogate them the minute they arrive home from school. Most kids are tired and need a little decompression time. Wait until they have relaxed a little and are in a good mood. Vary your question and don’t ask the same questions every day, but mix it up so that they don’t get bored with your line of questioning.
My daughter gets annoyed if I continually ask her about her academics. She says “it bugs me that you only ask me about school stuff.” She is a top student and she feels I only care about her academics. I have learned to listen to what she and her friends are talking about so that I can engage and ask questions about what is going on in their social lives in and out of school.
It’s important to be open and interested in what your kids are involved with, even if it’s something you are not familiar with or knowledgeable about. Social media is a big part of their life. Be engaged and interested. You never know what you will learn about what is going on in their life.
What did you have for lunch today?
This is an easy one for them to answer, and often starting with a non-personal question will help to break the ice. You can always switch things around and make it funny, for example: “Are they still serving slop for lunch?” Humor can often break through those tough teen exteriors.
How is Mark?
The most important way to ensure communication lines stay open is to really listen. This is tricky because you are probably multi-tasking and have ten things on your mind, but it does help to make your kids feel you care about what they have to say. Ask about their friends and if you get; “He’s fine”, then continue the conversation by asking specific questions which follow on from previous conversations like: “Did he manage to get his assignment in on time?”
Do you have lots of homework today?
This gives you an opportunity to commiserate, and express your support for them. It also leads to many secondary questions like:
- “What do you have to do?”
- “How long do you think it will take?”
- “Do you need some help with your math?”
- “Do you want me to keep your siblings busy while you study?”
- “How can I help you get through all of that?”
How was your test?
Keep tabs on events that are happening in their lives so that you can ask specific questions. Vague questions like: “How was school?” aren’t great conversation starters. Instead, ask about tests, assignments, social events or even things that are happening in their personal lives. That could mean asking about a fight they were having with a friend or whether they asked a girl to the dance.
Communicating with kids of any age can be taxing when they are not in the mood to talk. Try not to get frustrated and yell at them; it only reinforces their reticence to open up. Keep tuned in and engaged in their lives every day and always let them know that you are available should they ever want to talk. Your patience and persistence will pay off with more open communication.