“How was school today?”
“What did you do today?”
Sound familiar? For many parents and teachers, a consistent challenge is getting kids to open up and talk about their day and their life. With a very strong theme of ‘getting back to basics’, this blog offers some practical advice that will hopefully get everybody talking and moving!
Getting outdoors with kids can have an immediate positive impact on the soul. Sometimes it takes a forced indoor-lockdown to show us just how grateful we are for some outside time! Whether you’re openly conversing with your kids, or simply walking in mutual silence together, it is pretty hard to be outside together and not become present in each other’s world.
In today’s day and age, it is far too easy to get caught up in technology and forget about life before screens. There are pros and cons for technology, with many arguing that it’s a social device in itself, opening up broader communication pathways. In the context of this blog, distraction via technology is often where the communication breakdown begins, as well as being a catalyst for issues such as bullying, that our kids may be facing and needing to talk about. But how do we get them (and us!) off the screen and talking?
Here are my TOP TIPS for engaging conversation with your children:
TIP 1: Don’t force it
The biggest problem with the above conversations is that they are forced. Communicating with kids is all about engaging at their level, talking about topics that they want to discuss. Combine this with fresh air, an outdoor activity and you’ll be amazed at the conversations that will follow. But what about when it doesn’t flow? Don’t force it! If they don’t want to talk, don’t make them. Just be there, alongside them, joining in with whatever it is they are doing. Imagine if we had someone in our life who would just let us be, whilst being there? Pretty special right?
TIP 2: Get in on the action
What are they doing? Get down to their level and join in the activity. Your child will soon start talking about the game or activity and from here, you can gently guide the conversation
This principle applies for older children/teenagers too, you just might be tuning in through a favourite band or celebrity, rather than a game on the floor.
TIP 3: Walking
Go for a walk! Children LOVE being outside and fresh air is good for everybody. While running, hopping, skipping or chasing, the happy endorphins will flow and so will the conversation. Remember - let them choose the topic, enjoy the moment and conversation together. If your child is grumbling about the walk and not engaging in conversation, just be. Be there and be present. Your undivided time is an enormous gesture and one that your child will appreciate, even if they have a somewhat strange way of showing you this!
TIP 4: New favourite things
Although your child may ‘think’ their favourite activity is playing on an iPad, trust your instincts and get them to a park. This might be a regular park, a skate park or even a bush trail. Kids love exploring and they soon won’t be able to help but to get involved. Tell them how impressed you are with their skills, let the conversation flow from there. Ask them how they did it? (Climbed the ladder, jumped the ramp, discovered a creature, etc.). Whilst hanging out at the skate park with your teen might not be ideal, you can certainly enquire about what skills they’re working on when they get home. Or who has the best tricks. Get them to show you a YouTube video of their favourite tricks. You can still engage in their world without being physically present.
TIP 5: Be present
Simply put, be in the moment with your child. Turn off your phone, watch what they really are doing, listen to what they really are saying and be a part of their moment. This is by far the greatest gift you can give your child as a parent, your undivided attention. If you want a really strong reality check, start keeping a tally of how often you are distracted by technology in a day. How often this takes over time that could be spent with your family. I do this regularly as it is so easy to get sucked back down the scrolling rabbit hole.
Life with children can get stressful, especially when they won’t talk to you. But it can also be beautifully simple. Grab the kids, grab a blanket and watch the clouds. Get down on the floor and play. Go for a bike ride and enjoy being together. Remember to listen and go with the flow.