Parents of chatty preschoolers might not believe this, but it’s incredibly common for children in just hitting their tweens to clam up and leave mom and dad out of the loop on what’s going on in their lives.For most kids, this is a perfectly normal part of child development and a sign that they want to explore their new-found independence and experiment with setting new boundaries with their parents.
If you’re currently going through this phase with your kids, don’t despair. There are ways to keep the conversation flowing, but you’ll have to learn to play it cool and learn to let your kids take the lead. Try these suggestions for keeping the lines of communication open while still respecting your child’s need for a certain amount of autonomy.
1. Give them some space. It’s natural to want to hear everything your child did during the long hours you spend apart while he or she is at school or daycare. After all, you’ve probably missed them quite a bit and want them to know that you care and are eager to hear about their day.
However, many children need a bit of downtime at the end of their day to recuperate, just like many adults. Going to school and learning to navigate new social situations uses up quite a bit of their inner resources and they might need a bit of time to themselves when they first get home.
Do greet them warmly, but let them have a snack and some free time to play outdoors or read a book. This will help them relax and be more open to conversation after they’ve had time to unwind.
2. Remember to listen. As parents, we naturally feel like we have an important duty to instruct our children on what is productive, moral and right. Unfortunately, this can lead to use interrupt our kids to lecture or nag them. This can make them feel like our only reason to talk to them is to find reasons to pick at them.
Instead of jumping in to deliver judgment, let your child finish telling you the entire story first. Ask questions about how they felt, how they made their decisions and what they think could or should happen next. You might ultimately have to lay down the law, but make sure your child knows that you heard and considered what they said, first.
3. Don’t give up on family time! Your child might act like spending time with his or her parents and siblings is a woeful fate, but secretly they crave that feeling of closeness and connection. Make sure that everyone knows that family dinners together are a priority and make plans to do fun things together at least a couple of times a month.
Instead of vegging out together in front of the television, try breaking out the board games for some family fun that is also educational. Playing and laughing together is a great way to break down the walls that children like to erect and feel that easy closeness that families share.
Look for games that help break the ice and start conversations. You can find boxed conversation starters and trivia games that can be played at the dinner table or on road trips. You can even challenge your kids to make their own set of conversation starters that the grownups have to answer!