Every parent wants to know what is going on inside the lives and minds of their kids … especially when they are at school.
We recently had a post about some great starter questions that can help begin real conversations with your children but sometimes asking questions is not the best way to get ‘real’ answers. Here we will give you a few other ideas to vary your approach.
I often tell my kids stories of my childhood or of friends and family as a way of promoting discussion on a particular topic. Simply by re-telling a serious or even a funny story it can lead to a chain reaction of similar or related stories which can give you a better insight into what is happening at school or when you are away from your kids.
For example, last night I told a story about a food fight at my high school where one of my best friends accidently ended up hitting the deputy principal with a rotten plum (only funny 15 years on lol) … and it lead to a few random stories of things that had happened recently at school regarding food and then onto a story about some friends being called to the office this week for some inappropriate ‘fun’.
That is something I might never have heard about if I didn’t start tell my story.
Keeping them Talking
Once a discussion is going, you can actively keep it going by using a few counsellor’s tricks.
- By saying back to your child the basics of what they have told you it will prompt them to say more. You can get many more details without actually asking any questions … just summarise very quickly what they have told you. Give it a go.
- Summarizing the story gives them a chance to correct you or make sure they know you are engaged … Clarifying small details helps to make it a really engaged discussion too and can extend what they reveal
- Try not to condemn anything or interrupt until you are sure you have all the info … and especially don’t panic until you know the whole story
- Ask them how they felt or how could they have acted differently etc
Sometimes if there is silence (car, meal table etc) I will throw out a hypothetical scenario and ask what my kids would do. This helps them mentally prepare for situations where they may find themselves. Just like sportspeople imagine winning and mentally rehearse their moves, we all make better decisions when we are not in the heat of the moment.
Practicing making decisions where it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong really helps with real life choices … and its fun to imagine the worst choices too (sometimes haha).
Asking crazy questions
OK I know its back to asking questions but this is a little different! I ask my pre-teen boys some totally crazy questions sometimes and it can open up taboo topics a little. For example I will ask them if they bullied anyone today … knowing full well they are more likely to be on the receiving end but they laugh and sometimes will go on to discuss something related.
I ask them if they stole anything or did they get suspended …. it sounds totally crazy but its a joke and they know it. Perhaps its because of the particular relationships we have so you might want be careful with this idea … but asking absurd and funny questions works well to start conversations for us.
Those are just a few ideas but they can help you keep open chats happening with your kids without peppering them with serious questions all the time.