- Anchorage School District
- Communication is Key
Getting past “Fine” and other one word answers :
Communicating with Elementary School children
Getting past “Fine” and other one word answers
Getting kids’ feeling open to share information about their day is foundational to having open communication with them when they are teens and young adults. Here are a few tricks that can help to get them to talk more openly about their day. Keep this magnet on your fridge as a reminder.
Quick tips to keep communication open
Ask open ended questions:
Ask questions that require more then a one-word answer.
- “What made you smile today?”
- “What was the most interesting thing you learned today?”
- “If you had a magic wand what would you want to change about today?”
Follow up with displaying interest
- “What happened next?”
This will encourage them to continue to give more details. It’s important that they feel you are interested in what they are sharing. The more that parents listen the more kids know what they share is valued.
Model sharing information:
It’s natural when someone shares information with you to want to share something in return.
- Share things about your day. Sharing things that were good and things that were more challenging, will model how to share things that may be uncomfortable as well as exciting.
- Another great way to model is by sharing things about your own childhood example: “When I was younger I loved playing on the swings at recess. What is your favorite thing to do at recess?”
If you feels something may not be going well at school questions may come in a way that elicits a lot of emotion or the kid shutting down and not sharing.
- Try “I know you got to sit with new kids today at lunch, How did that go?”
- Instead of “I hope you weren’t too sad at school today, I know your friends have been being mean.” When kids do not need to worry about what parents think or feel they will often share more about their feelings.
Accept what they share:
As a parent it’s important to accept what kids share.
- “What is the best part of the day?” and they respond, “Recess” Follow it up with “Really? What did you do?”
You may feel an urge to minimize by saying
- “Tell me about something important that you liked”.
That can leave a child feeling like there is a right/wrong answer to the question. Ideally the goal is to keep the lines of communication open and set the foundation for life long open communication.
Let the information trickle in:
It’s important to allow kids to share information at their own pace. They may need to process something before sharing it aloud. Sometimes they remember more details or things they want to share when they are not feeling pressured to provide an answer. When they want to share you should be ready to listen. If you can’t listen then you should make sure your kids knows what they want to share is important and set up a time to be available. Example:
“Honey I want to hear about what happened in math but I have to take this call from work can I come grab you in about 5 minutes when I’m done?”
Laying foundations for good communication :
Talking with Middle School teens
Foundation for good communication
Young teens are beginning the process of pulling away from parents and seeking more independence. With this parents begin to see young teen spending more time in their room alone, talking less about what’s going on in their lives outside of home, spending more time with friends and beginning to develop their own opinions. This becomes a critical time to start laying the foundation for good communication as they progress through their teen years. Keep the wallet size card as a reminder of some quick and handy tips to keeping the lines of communication open as they begin to progress into their teen year.
Quick tips to keep communication open:
Quality and Quantity:
There is a saying quality of time is more important then the quantity of time spent. The quality of time spent with young teens is very important to create a strong and trusting relationships. An example:
- Doing an activity together you both enjoy
It is foundational to get them to talk to you when faced with difficult situations. Quantity is also important, getting your teen to spend time outside their room even if it isn’t time engaged together. An Example:
- You reading in the living room as they are watching their show on the TV.
Being in the same space helps to create that idea of comfort that young teens will later seek when faced with tough situations. The biggest piece is finding the balance of still respecting their need for space (time alone) and time with family.
Start early and model good communication:
To gain open communication when teens are older, it’s important to start early with listening and sharing information. Examples:
- Telling stories about when they were a teen
- Sharing about things that happen during their day.
This will model for young teens how to share information and have good communication skills. To get young teens to share information regularly parents need to make sure they are really listening to those things the young teen chooses to share.
Talk less, listen more without judgment:
Parents have many of their own experiences and values that lead them to know the way you would like to see your young teen handle a situation. When teen talk about their problems and parents jump into “rescue” them or impart wisdom. It can shut down the conversation. It’s important to remember the learning that comes from teens getting to solve problems their own way. Asking questions or providing empathy like
- “What do you think you will do?”
- “That sounds tough”
Allows them to open up and share more. If they are unsure of what to do offer a few suggestions (always more then one) so they can choose how to solve it.
One piece of good communication is modeling how to deal with conflict. Often in middle school parents begin laying the groundwork about how to disagree regarding rules and limits. Some common disagreements seen with young teens:
- Social media,
- Phone usage
Learning how to navigate these conversations will help you set the tone as your teen becomes older and conversations become tougher based around peer pressure with riskier behaviors. You may feel compromising will make you appear like a push over in reality when teens feel that their input and feelings are respected they are more likely to follow the rules. It’s important for you to know what you are willing to negotiate on and what is non-negotiable.
Problem solve together:
When compromising becomes difficult, try to problem solve together. Ask them to step away from the situation and think of a few different solutions. Then as the parent, model doing the same. Sometimes giving space to a conflict gives the opportunity to think more clearly. Set a time to come back together to discuss all the solutions. Through this process both the teen and they aren’t might come up with the same solution or one they can both agree on.
Focus on the positive:
Positive interaction will increase positive interaction. The more young teens feel good about the interactions they are having the more they will seek out sharing information with their parents. So often time spent with young teen is corrective or interrogative:
- “Did you do your homework?”
- “Did you clean your room?”
- “Who are you texting?”
Try to find things they are doing well. The more confident they feel in their choices the more they will share; increasing open effective communication with parents.
It’s less about what we ask and more about what we know :
Communicating with High School teens
It’s less about what we ask and more about what we know
Getting teens to talk can be challenging. Often we are encouraged to ask open-ended questions. As kids move into the later teen years it is less about what we ask and more about what we know. When kids talk we learn more. Here are a few tips to help get them talking more. Keep this card in your wallet for a reminder on getting your teen to talk.
Quick tips to keep communication open
Teens often feel judged by many people in their circle (friends, teachers, bosses parents). The less you react when teens are talking the more open your teen will be to share information. Another way to look at it is it allows teens to have their emotions without worrying about how their parent feels.
Active listening is when we give our full attention without judgment or thinking about our reply. Saying things like “Hmm,” or “Really?” helps relay you are listening. Eye contact, leaning in, positioning your body towards them is also some nonverbal ways to display active listening.
Parenting is hard and teens are faced with many difficult and risky situations. It will be challenging to actively listen and show little reaction. If feeling overwhelmed its ok to step away from the conversation to think about how to reply and support your teen while holding true to your family values and ensuring they are safe.
Parents have a parent alarm that goes off when knowing our kids are in tough situations sometimes it is referred to as the momma bear response. To ensure teens continue to share information we can’t rescue or control what they do. Think of it as an opportunity to test out their skills on dealing with tough things. Possible responses are “that’s tough what do you think you’ll do?” or “do you have a plan on how to handle it?” These give a lot of insight to their thinking, as well as convey that you believe in their ability to make good decisions.
When talking with teens it’s easy to think of a problem bigger then it is. Getting a C will not prevent them from getting into college and neither will an F. Keep the problem small and easy to solve. Teens are faced with a lot of pressure and decisions some potentially dangerous like driving with someone who was drinking. Those are the situations that we want their alarm bells going off on.
It’s easy to take on a teen’s pain as our own, but this can also prevent further sharing. Teen’s responses or feelings can change quickly and they do care what parents think even if they don’t show it. If we respond strongly in support and then they change their decision they could be too embarrassed to share about changing their mind.
Offer Constructive Feedback:
Teens can pick up criticisms easily and their fear of disappointing or being judged could further limit their willingness to share. Always ask before sharing suggestions “Would you like some ideas?” sets the teen up to be open to hearing a few ideas on how it could be handled. Always offer multiple suggestions that you as a parent are comfortable with and then give them space to solve if it is not dangerous or unsafe. In a dangerous or unsafe situation you many need to step in and help them to solve it if they are unable to come up with a safe solution.