“How was your day?”
“What did you do in school today?”
These words are the first paragraph in Melissa and my book, The Back Door to Your Teen’s Heart. They’re the first words mostly because they’re universal. They’re taking place in every carpool and every home every day across the country.
You’ve experienced the frustration. The one-word answers. The eye rolls. The back of a phone rather than the blue of their eyes. So, how do you connect? How can you ask questions that actually require verbal responses rather than grunts?
We love this article in Huffington Post. It gives some great ideas for questions for kids of every age. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/25-ways-to-ask-your-kids-so-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-so-how-was-school-today_b_5738338.html
The next line of that book is, “To the degree kids can predict you, they’ll dismiss you.” These questions have a warmth and unpredictability about them that invites response and further conversation.
If you have teenagers, asking about their friends is always a door-opener, too. Whatever your child’s age, think about what they love. Maybe your child loves music, or movies, or soccer or art. Whatever they love is a key through the door that often feels hard to open. Ask questions. Draw them out. Be unpredictable in the ways you connect. Try going to coffee or shooting hoops in the backyard. Face to face conversations are sometimes more threatening, especially for teenagers. Talk in the car, when you’re both looking straight ahead. Sit on their bed and scratch their back when they’re falling asleep.
Your children need you to ask questions…to draw them out. They want to have conversation, although they won’t ever say these words. They tell us behind the privacy of our doors in counseling. They notice when you don’t ask. Asking questions and being interested makes them feel loved. It helps them to know that you’re interested, that you believe in who they are and that you believe they’re someone worth knowing. And, even if they give you eye rolls in response, they need and long desperately to be connected to you. Trust us on that one.