I'm not sure there's anything more frustrating than getting one word answers from your kids when you're trying to engage in a meaningful conversation. Am I right mamas?
I have two boys, one is twelve and the other is six. Having two very different stages happening in our home is a blessing for me. My tween, for the last couple of years has been in the beginning stages of puberty, which means more moodiness, less communication and lots of angst. Oh the joy! My little guy is still happy go lucky and loves a good conversation. It's a good balance, and one I'm very grateful for.
As a life coach, my job is to be an effective communicator. As a parent, my job is to try to hold it together long enough that I don't loose my marbles on a daily basis. It's a fine line. I've been using all kinds of communication tricks on my kids since they were small - some worked and some did not. Parenting is all about trial and error and when you find something that works you stick with what you know!
I say this regularly: communication is the most important element in every relationship - especially with your kids. I learned early on that there's no way I'll be able to effectively communicate with them if I'm doing it in a way that feels like I'm prying, even for the most basic information! I realized that I needed to find ways that made them feel at ease when we're having our daily chats.
For me, it's important that I make sure everyone is in a good mood - it's never any fun to start a conversation when one of the participants is cranky. For example, I never start an important discussion as soon as they get home from school. I find that my kids need time to wind down and relax before they want to open up. Discussions often go better when they've had a snack and a little while to decompress.
I like to ask open ended questions that can rarely be answered in one word. This is tricky, because after a while they figured out my tactic! I like to ask questions about their friends or teachers that require more dialogue and explanation. Without realizing it, we're now having a full on discussion about what happened in science class and it didn't feel like I was fishing for information.
I also find bedtime to be a great time to have a meaningful conversation. It's dark, we're all snuggled into bed and everyone is feeling relaxed. We've had some of our best conversations at bedtime. Those conversations are the ones that are deeper than "how was your day" - they're the ones that are more life experience related. The ones where I find myself explaining feelings and emotions. The ones that will resonate with them on a deeper level. I look forward to our nightly chats because they confirm for me that my kids are actually paying attention, even when I think they aren't.
Conversations with your kids can be tricky. Each of us has a method that works for our particular family. Like I tell my clients, there's not one way to be a good parent, there are many ways. Keep up the great work!!