I value the beauty of communication and dialogue with my children. The questions I’m about to suggest came to me completely randomly as I sat down with my sons for our daily ‘chit-chat’ – a mother-and-son moment we have every single evening, where we talk about their day and anything else that’s been on their mind: from “Mum, how are trains made?” to “Mum, I have this spot on my chin…” That evening, I decided to have a bit more of a structured approach to our chit-chat, and introduced a set of questions. I didn’t think they’d be so useful in making the conversation flow, and I’m surprised at how much the boys enjoyed answering them! N.B.: These questions are specifically aimed at pre-teen/teenagers. However, parents of younger children (and dads!) feel free to tailor as necessary.
This is a question that will encourage your children to open up about the joys they experience within your home. From the food they eat, to the games they play… it’s important to know what makes your kids really happy within the environment you’ve created.
My sons’ answers: “We get to play video games and board games“, “we eat good food”, “we spend lots of time together as a family”. This tells me my children really value quality time – whether we spend it playing together or eating together at the dinner table. I’m taking note that this is one of their love languages.
Are you ready to feel flattered? This is your moment to shine. Let your kids tell you what you do particularly well, and throw you flowers. Now, make note of it, and make sure you maintain these things.
My sons’s answers: “You cook yummy food” (that F word again!), “You give us lots of love”, “You take good care of us”, “You give us pocket money”. More love languages to take into account. It felt so good to hear these wonderful things coming from my sons’ mouths.
Now, because knowing what I don’t do so well is just as important, I decided to include this question too. I want to know the areas where I can improve, and again I want to hear it from my children’s perspective. It’s important to make note of the not-so good habits your children have noticed you have, and actually take steps to do better.
My sons’ answers: “You should give us more pocket money” (Are we surprised? Ha!) “You should try and shout less”, “It would be nice if you knocked on the door before coming into our bedroom”. I already know I struggle to keep my calm when the kids misbehave or disobey – yes this does happen, even in the strictest or healthiest of households, children will sometimes test their parents limits! So hearing it from my sons only confirmed to me what I already knew I had to keep working on. Noted, sons! As for the request to knock on their door – hey, they’re growing up, becoming more independent and, I guess, entitled to their personal space. So I’m more than happy to start doing this.
By asking this question, you are essentially allowing your children to have a say in the way their lives are run – from their morning routine, to their extra curricular activities… It’ll give them a sense that their opinion when it comes to their own lives are valued. You may not agree with everything they suggest, but it’s a good idea to invite their input into your daily family schedule.
My sons’ answers: “We have to do too many chores”, “We want you to play more tennis with us” “I hate tidying up my room!”. I definitely noted the tennis request, but as for chores… they currently do the bare minimum, and they know it… So that was something I took with a pinch of salt! And keeping their room tidy is non-negotiable – they’ll thank me for it later!
Now is the time to really let them express themselves, and perhaps even get into deeper conversations. My sons usually like to talk about school – so we discuss a bit of everything. From their attitudes towards bullying, to friendships, or lessons they like/dislike, puberty… It’s a time for them to share anything that’s been on their mind. And sometimes they don’t want to, or don’t have anything they want to talk about. And that’s fine. Don’t insist – let them go back to whatever they were doing. As much as it’s important to engage in healthy conversations with your children, these things should never be forced, if your kids aren’t showing a keen interest.
I hope this has been useful to you. Feel free to let me know in the comments how you encourage healthy conversations with your children, I’d love to hear from you! Also, note that I’m no expert in child psychology. I like to suggest ideas that have worked for us as a family, but of course no two families are the same – you know your children better thank anyone else, so do tweak as necessary!