Tips for parents to start conversations with children

Lynne M. Webb

How can a busy adult find the time to engage in thoughtful parenting? After all, many of the suggestions in this column require time to discuss concerns with children and co-parenting partners. Who has time?

Between paid work, household chores, volunteering, preparing meals, and driving the kids between activities, many parents struggle to find time to exercise or eat dinner with their partner. How can someone find time for long, meaningful discussions with their children?

In fact, the conversation can take place during other activities, including the following:

Bedtime: When you put your toddler to bed at night, he sometimes doesn’t want you to leave his room. You can ask, “What’s bothering you, honey? Let’s talk about it so you can rest easy and fall asleep.

If they say everything is fine, you can leave with no worries. But be prepared for the “doorknob question”. As you leave, your child may ask the question that reveals his worries: “Why doesn’t my teacher like me?” “How can I get popular kids to play with me?” “Did I do something wrong? Grandma seems mad at me every day after school. It’s time for a meaningful conversation.

Car conversations can be an opportunity to delve deeper into difficult topics when you and your child don’t necessarily want to look each other in the eye. Many touchy topics have been discussed in the confines of a car on the way to a dentist appointment.

More parenting columns from Lynne M. Webb:

Parents who limit the use of “no” with their children are rewarded

‘Goofy Questions’ Produce Better Conversations with Kids

Family disagreements can provide an opportunity for growth and increased closeness

Exercising with your kids can spark conversations. Try walking together (without headphones) and share what made you happiest that day. You don’t want to play sports together? Then, drive to the gym together and discuss your exercise goals along the way.

Homework: Conversations when checking homework can evolve into discussions about teachers, how school is going, or possible career paths that can evolve from interests in school subjects.

Cleaning: Do the cleaning together as a contest. “I’m going to dust this part of the room, while you do this part. We can share an ice cream sundae when we’re done! What flavor of sundae do you want? Or do you prefer a milkshake?

Meal Preparation: Children can participate intimately in meal preparation and openly talk about interesting topics while discussing food in front of them. For example, asking a teenager if the new boyfriend or girlfriend also likes Italian food can lead to an interesting list of ways that person is the same or different from your child.

Volunteering: If you volunteer, help your children get involved too. For example, they may help organize an event by placing the printed agenda on each seat, working on Zoom for the meeting, greeting people at the door, babysitting small children, taking down folding chairs, etc You’ll have a lot to say on the way back.

One of the secrets of successful parenting is that the more time you spend with your children, the more opportunities there are to talk about – about everything that matters to one or both of you – and therefore the more there is. has opportunities to build a meaningful relationship. The time you spend together and the conversations that come with it can happen anytime and anywhere the two of you are together — if you’re open to that possibility.

Our son Reed was adopted. We’ve always been open about how he joined our family, but he never seemed to have any questions about it…until he did. One night during bedtime, he confessed, “Sometimes I think I miss my birth mother even though I’ve never met her. Is it weird?”

He was 8 years old and thinking about his identity for the first time. His question sparked the conversation I had been waiting years to have with him.

It all started with my own confession: that we had searched the world for him, that I believed the most important job I would do in my life was to raise him for his biological mother, that I was convinced that she despised us of Ciel and that I thought she was very proud of him and the young man he was becoming.

I thought it was perfectly reasonable that he felt the loss of never being able to talk to her. I promised to be the best mom possible to compensate for her absence. We cried; we kissed each other. This important conversation took place in the midst of the daily event of the nocturnal retreat. Amazing conversations can happen anytime.

To parents who say they can’t make time for such deep conversations, I respectfully ask the question: can you afford not to? If you don’t answer the kids’ questions and have the important conversations nowwhen children bring up issues in the midst of casual daily activities, the moments pass.

As a rule, children never bring up the issue again because they feel “closed off”. The more closed off they feel, the more they turn to others for advice and conversation. This is how brooding, silent teenagers develop, as well as non-communicative adult children who only see their parents on major holidays.

My advice: Seize opportunities for conversations in the midst of everyday life. It is the one and only path to a close relationship with your child, a close relationship that can last a lifetime.

Lynne M. Webb, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of communications at Florida International University and the University of Arkansas who lives in Gainesville and St. Augustine. Contact her at [email protected] and on Twitter @CommProfWebb.

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