Conversation is the cornerstone of good quality family time. Sometimes though, we get into a bit of a rut and find it difficult to know what to talk to our children about. What can we ask that will help them to open up with us? Our kids are often slow or reluctant to tell us about what’s going on at school, about their problems and fears. I ask “How are you?”, and I get a standard answer “I’m OK, dad”. It’s not much, is it?
The need for conversation starters
It’s no secret that a lot of kids today spend more time playing games and surfing the Internet than they spend talking with their parents (us!). We can use parental control programs to see what sites they’re visiting or to monitor and control their screen time. But let’s not put our trust completely in machines to get us out of this problem (which they themselves have caused). We still have some time-proven tools like a good old fashioned talk available to us. What’s more, even if we do choose to use parental controls, they’re most effective when we talk to our kids about the boundaries we’re placing on them. Why are we doing it and what conditions would need to be met before we’d consider removing them?
If you want to get out of that rut, start some good conversations and turbocharge your family time, here are 12 questions you could use to start a meaningful conversation with your child:
- Tell me about the most interesting/funniest/worst thing that happened to you at school today. When we ask non-specific questions like, “How was your day?”, we’re likely to get a non-specific answer in return: “It was fine”. But if we ask about more specific details, the answers will be that much more personal and detailed to match.
- Where is your favourite place at school? We often form associations with places. I was surprised to find how effective this question was. Favourite places come with stories and with good associations.
- Do you need my help? We all know how hard it is to ask for help sometimes. If your child isn’t used to asking for your help in small things, they’ll probably not come to you when it’s about something serious. So start with the small issues (usually homework / revision).
- Did you help anybody at school today? We all like to feel needed and if somebody asks us for help it makes us feel stronger and more qualified. That’s why our kids love to talk about such situations. They might be surprised by the question the first time you ask it and not have anything to discuss. Try repeating it every couple of days to encourage them to look for opportunities to help others.
- Who is your hero? Why? The answer to questions like this will often change over time, even from day to day. It depends who they’ve been studying about at school, what film they recently watched and so on. The interesting part of the question is when they explain why. Kids often project their own characteristics onto their favourite hero characters. Listening to their stories, we may well get to know more about our kids’ dreams, fears and ambitions.
- What is your dream? Perhaps similar to the previous question, but a little more direct. Again, especially with young kids, answers are likely to pick up on things they’ve noticed or engaged with during the previous day or week. This gives you a great tool to notice the things that they’re attracted to and entertained by.
- How would you describe our family at the moment? This one is especially helpful for opening a conversation about some problematic issues that you’ve seen growing in your family. It invites an honest assessment in a very open way. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a way to revel in the good times too though 🙂
- Who is your best friend? What do you like about them? Again, even if you already know what they’re going to say to the first part of the question, the 2nd part is where they have a chance to open up a bit and help us to understand what they like, the characteristics they’re likely to imitate and so on.
The world of kids is more colourful, illogical and full of wonder. It’s great to return to that world for a while sometimes. The following questions may help:
- If you could make it rain some kind of food what food would you choose? This might not go very deep, but it’s good to keep things silly sometimes. Especially when it’s raining outdoors, you’re trapped inside, but don’t want to revert back to video games just yet.
- If you could be any animal, which would you be and why? This combines the silly with the insightful. Combine it with a kids party classic and ask your kids what animal the rest of the family/ their friends remind them of and why.
- What would you prefer – to slip on the cloud or to slide on the rainbow? OK, so this old chestnut might not appeal to the younger generation so much. The category of question remains very engaging though. “Would you rather” isn’t just a fun and funny game, you can learn a lot about each other at the same time.
- Your question here. Yes, you’re right, I cheated. The title said 12 questions and I only included 11. It’s because I know you’ve got a load of great suggestions for conversation starters parents can use with their kids. Tell us your ideas in the comment section below. Together let’s make sure conversation with our children remains an enjoyable and integral part of our family time.