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How to get kids talking

Watching your children grow and learn is wonderful. It’s also terrifying because you don’t always know what they’re thinking. Ask any parent or childcare provider, and she’ll tell you that one of the greatest parenting challenges is to get your kids to talk to you.

50 Days of family fun

Lisa Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in Madison, New Jersey, who specializes in work with teens and their parents, says, “Getting kids to talk is a big issue in a lot of households.” She offers these easy tips to loosen the lips:

Choose “safe” topics

“Start with subjects that are absolutely not a source of conflict in your family, like your favorite actor, athlete or brownie recipe,” she says. Keep the conversations light and fun, focusing on listening more talking. “Accept all thoughts, even if you disagree, in the spirit of open-minded curiosity,” says Greenberg. If a response catches you off guard, try responding with, “I never thought of it like that” to encourage more dialogue.

Don’t ask yes/no questions

Kelly Downing, chief marketing officer and founder of and mother of two daughters, suggests choosing your questions wisely: “Ask open-ended questions as opposed to just yes/no questions.” For example, say to your child, “Tell me what you did today at school,” instead of “Did you have fun at school?”

Start early

Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of and mother of three boys, started an open dialogue with all her children from a young age so that they would see her as approachable, trustworthy and someone to whom they’d want to converse. She sets aside some alone time with each child at bedtime. “We rotate through their rooms and talk about whatever. We have a really hectic life, but they each get some time at night to chat,” she explains.

More family fun ideas

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