Encouraging open communication with our kids is a skill that takes practice. In each developmental stage kids lean in or retreat… and it’s up to the adults to foster positive communication during each stage. There are so many things we can do to create this safe space for kids to talk openly with us.
Our nonverbal cues speak volumes to kids when they initially approach us and carry through the conversation. If we continue to scroll through our phones, sigh when they first approach us, or don’t make eye contact our kids will get a clear message that we are not interested in what they are saying. If kids don’t feel “listened to” they will find someone else to talk to, or even worse…. they will isolate themselves and stop talking altogether.
Active listening is a huge way to encourage our kids to talk with us. Responding positively with head nods and nonverbal cues will let them know you think what they have to say is important. It is helpful to paraphrase what they’ve said so that they know you’ve understood what they have asked or told you. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to encourage more conversation to occur.
Creating safe space for kids to talk about things they are concerned about is a very important skill parents need to practice. Our kids need to trust that we will care for their feelings and will respond to their needs when answering questions. When things go on in the world around them and they have fear, anxiety, or concerns they need to know that their parents will always be the best place to talk. Here is a great guide to help navigate that conversation.