Got A Fill-In-The-Blank Quiz, Get A Two-Word Stock Answer
Here are ideas for conversing with children.
When my daughter comes home from school, our conversations consist of a fill-in- the-blank quiz.
I compose the questions, and she registers her two word multi-purpose answer.
I say, “How was your (chemistry lab, meeting with your teacher, play practice, lunch, etc.)?”
She replies, “Don’t know.”
This is her stock phrase that means she is not in the mood to talk. The more I ask, the less I get.
I can only tolerate three vague replies before I stop. So, she gets exactly what she wants: no more questions. I get heartburn and insomnia.
How are we supposed to find out what is going on with our children when they are tight lipped?
Let’s face it. Some kids are not big on sharing, and the kids who bubbled over with news when they were little, may shut down as their hormones rev up. In the full bloom of puberty, privacy becomes primal.
One day over an iced Decaf Carmel Macchiato at Starbucks, something magical happened. She talked and I listened.
She revealed the name of the boy she invited to the Sharon High School sophomore semi-formal dance, describing in detail how she popped the question. She chatted about her admiration for her history teacher who notices she is better at projects than tests and cracks her up with his sarcastic humor. There wasn’t a single “Don’t Know” in the dialogue between us.
During the hour we sat across from each other at a corner window table, I learned more about her life than in a month of after-school kitchen counter encounters. I had intuitively cast a spell for better communication and I wanted to craft the formula to conjure it up again. Was it something in the coffee drink, the atmosphere, her or me?
Here is my formula for creating a communication connection with your child:
- Change up the locale. Sitting in the back of the car, at a quiet café, at the mall, or walking in the woods, your child may be freer to open up away from the ho-hum environment of home.
- Let your child take the lead and count to ten before you jump in. It will feel like an excruciatingly long pause. Hold your breath and your words. In return you may receive a tidbit of news from your child.
- Resist the urge to ask a succession of questions. Offer companionable silence, genuine interest and wait for your child to initiate the conversation.
- To address a touchy issue, never start your conversations with the phrase, “When I was your age...” Remember how much you hated it when your parents did that?
- Pretend you have amnesia about your own childhood disappointments, successes, and aspirations. Listen to your child with a clean slate, expecting a completely different picture from your own.
- Read your child’s mood. If he sends signals to stay away, don’t push it. Try again another time.
- Be ready, when your child is ready. This means forgoing a phone call or postponing a grocery run for a few minutes, in order to connect with your child.