“How was school?”
This is how so many dinner conversations start and end with children today, and not all the blame can be put on screen time and shorter attention spans. It is true kids today do have challenges interacting with not only with adults but with their own peers. But I would also like to put some fault on the way we as adults communicate with them.
In the example given above it is easy to see how parents are frustrated by their kids’ lack of communication with them. My question to that would be are you asking the right question? Take for example instead of asking “How was school?” why not ask “What was something you learned today?” By simply re-framing the way you asked for information you have required your child to give a specific response. Think of it like this if you were presented a question on a test that allowed you to answer any way you wanted it would likely take you longer to answer than if it gave specific information that it wanted. The same thing is happening at your dinner table. When you ask your child an overly broad question like “How was your day?” they are not shutting down but are simply taking the easy answer by saying “good” while if you ask for specific information, they can pull from particular events that they experienced that day.
This same pattern can then be used to continue a conversation and spark further dialog. For example, say your child told you something they learned that day follow with a question that dives into that like “why was that interesting?” This allows them to explain their opinion and gives you a chance to begin talking about their interests. This leads to another significant aspect of creating better conversation. Your house or dinner table needs to feel like a safe place for your kids to share their experiences and interests. This may sound simple, but just by not engaging when your child tells a story, you are showing them that next time they may not share it because you were not happy with it. Every human being whether young or old wants to feel accepted and when they share something they enjoy with people, and they don’t recognize it they no longer feel safe to do that again.
So below are some sample conversation questions you can ask to start a conversation or extend conversation once something has been shared.
What was something you did today that excited you?
Why was it exciting?
Who made it exciting?
How did they make it exciting?
What was the funniest thing to happen to you today?
What do you think about (fill in event or news story here)?
Why do you have that opinion?
What do you want to do this weekend?