Health Wise: Talking to Your Child so Your Child will Talk to You

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About 2 months into the school year, many of us are noticing kids are still adjusting to being back to school full time, to ever-changing protocols, and quarantines if they or someone in class (or sports) had covid exposure. There’s still a lot going on, and things are far from “back to normal”.

Parents and possibly educators too, may find themselves stuck and worried when they feel children aren’t opening up about how this year is going for them. They might wonder, why don’t they trust me? Or they might assume things are okay enough, and hope the kids will come to them if something does go wrong. These assumptions might just be that – assumptions. Kids and teens might actually be really wanting (and needing) to talk about what they are experiencing, but just not know how to start the conversation.

For caregivers, it might just come down to starting conversations in some unique ways, as well as continuing the conversation with tricks to keep kids talking! Open ended questions, validating any and all responses, and creating comfort by letting kids lead the conversation is key.

We’ve compiled some conversation prompts and ideas for talking to your child so your child talks to you:

Getting your child to talk about their day:

“How was school?” or “I’m curious about your day at school”

If child makes a face, a reflective response might be: “It looks like it has been a difficult day for you”

If child gives no response, a different reflective response might be: “ “It sounds like there may be things you’d rather not talk about”

Different openers at other times might be, “I’m curious about the best thing that happened? What was the worst? How does this week compare to last week?”

Getting your child to talk more specifically about feelings:

“How do you feel about school this year?”

I hear you. You are feeling _____ about ______.“

And "I love that you’re able to tell me that.“

If it’s a negative feeling: “what could help you feel less ___ ?”

If it’s a positive feeling: “That’s great! What would give you more of that feeling this year?”

Exploring reaction to changes due to covid:

“Tell me about some things at school that are the same as they were before”

“What are some things that are different?”

“How do you feel about the changes?”

“What are some changes you would want to see happen?”

“It sounds like there are things that are really different, and things that aren’t going how you like. You probably feel upset/scared/frustrated/disappointed/confused/etc”

Exploring social topics:

“What kinds of things are people talking about at school right now?”

“What do you think about that?”

“Sounds like you think/feel ___”

Offering support”

“What can I do to support you this year?”

“Tell me something I can do differently for you than I have been”

“If I understand correctly, you want me to ___ “

“It sounds like you would feel ___ if I did ___ “

Validating efforts and successes:

“I notice you have been working hard on ___”

“You are showing excellent (focus, organization, task-management, etc) skills this week”

“I love how you handled ___”

“It’s so cool how you ___ “

Try some of these ideas and see if you find children talking a little bit more. These conversations will show that you care, without pushing. They create a validating and comfortable space, and model empathetic communication. Get talking, and good luck!

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