Julie Jones, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC-S
In an age of distraction, sometimes it’s a challenge to talk to your own kids. Competing with a screen and the seemingly lost art of long social conversations are likely contributors to ongoing frustrating silence. Luckily, there are some simple tactics clever parents can try.
I remember years ago after a tough time in our family, I took my kids jet skiing over waves in the ocean. It was rough, exhilarating, and a bit scary. The water rushing over our faces, the taste of the salt water, and the visual scenery provided a lot of interesting sensory stimulation. We were experiencing something new together for the first time. This created natural commentary about what we were doing. Anything that is new for both of you is more likely to spark fresh conversation.
Tip #1: Try a new experience together.
Have you ever noticed guys are often more talkative when they are side-by-side instead of looking at each other directly? Reducing the requirement of direct eye contact sometimes makes it easier for people to talk to each other. Start a commentary on what you are seeing in front of you. Common times you might capture this opportunity are while riding in a car, playing a game, and cooking together. Consider taking a car ride to an unusual place like the Galveston seawall, Brazos Bend State Park, or a drive through animal park.
Tip #2: Set yourself up to talk side-by-side instead of face-to-face.
Use truth serum. Ok, well maybe not exactly that. I have noticed that kids will talk to me while sitting in a hot tub, running, and engaging in any physical activity. There is actually brain science behind this. As an individual exercises, the brain releases feel good chemicals. Although the hot tub idea seems to work instantaneously, often exercise requires multiple attempts before the child will talk freely. My theory is the child realizes they have a captive audience and in that predictable scenario the adult is safe to talk to. In other words, you are not distracted. Routine evening walks with a dog, running at the park, and bike rides are easy and repeatable activities to try.
Tip #3: Prime the brain through exercise and soothing activities before you talk.
A final thought is about simple approachability. I am also that parent who is tired at the end of the day and uses the same go-to conversation starters about how the day went and homework questions. The truth is kids are more likely to talk when a parent is approachable and interesting. Are you acting like you are person they want to be around? Are you doing things like smiling, acting playful, and asking novel questions about their world? What makes you laugh? Can you reveal that side of yourself more often?
Tip #4: Show up with a positive attitude and fun-loving approachability.
Communication is something we all work on. With a few new tactics, you might speed up the process to success. Summer is a perfect time to try a new approach.
Julie Jones, PhD