Are you sick of abrupt answers like "Fine", "Good", "I don't know", "shrug shoulders", "Uggh...*looks away*"?
Running out of ways to help your kid express their feelings and have a proper conversation with you?
Want to find out how their day (actually) was?
Let's take a closer look at some methods that will help.
You'll be glad to know that there are still many fun and useful tools available!
These will help encourage young children to develop their confidence and learn to open up to you.
Getting used to lots of healthy interaction at a young age can make it easier to tackle bigger issues in the future, especially as they get older.
So let's get straight into it!
4 Fun Ways to Know What Your Child is Really Thinking and Feeling
Let's take a look at some fun activities to promote communication.
You can integrate this into the family's daily or weekly routine for best results 🙂
Mystery Lucky Dip
Attach a note to their favourite snack and have them answer the question before they can have it!
It can be a question or word to talk about.
Mix it up with easy topics so they won’t feel like they are being interviewed each time.
Tip: Wrap the treat up so they won’t know what to expect!
You will need:
- An empty jar
- Wrapping material (I used cut-outs from old magazines and cloths)
- Strings or ribbons (used wrapping from past presents comes in handy!)
- Paper and pen
- Hole puncher
- Favourite snacks or small toys (anything that your child is interested in)
- Write your questions on a piece of paper, leaving spaces in between them for cutting.
- Cut the questions out, fold in half, and create a hole in the middle using the hole puncher.
- Cut the wrapping material to suitable size, enough to cover the treat/toy.
- Tie with string or ribbon, with question attached.
- Place in an empty jar and begin the Mystery Lucky Dip!
Be fair and take part in it with them. This can become a Family activity.
You can take turns who goes first each time. Enjoy!
Magic Mail Box
Having an outlet that your child can safely express their feelings, other than verbally through their parents, is an important method for helping children open up.
Whether it’s about what they are thinking, wishing for, or trying to forget about an incident that is disturbing them, your kid can express their feelings through writing or drawing to their favourite superhero, Santa or anyone they wish to share their secrets and thoughts with.
In comes the magic mail box, where your children can send their special letters.
Story of the Magic Mail Box to share with your children:
After everyone in the house is sound asleep, the friendly Magic Mail Box comes alive.
It uses its secret powers at night, to magically transport any letter inside.
The powers of the Magic Mail Box are so strong, that the letter can reach anyone in the Universe.
When the sun comes up, the Magic Mail Box goes back to sleep. But inside, will be a reply letter, waiting to be opened by a very excited child!
Without exposing your true self, write back to your child through the Magic Mail Box, from their nominated person.
You can also use the Magic Mail Box for parenting, to encourage good behavior and a reward system after.
You may like to check out our BODEY Cardboard Playhouse which comes with a 3D Mailbox that can be used to send/receive letters and drawings.
The BODEY Playhouse is a kid friendly place and safe house for your child, as they will be familiar with the space through endless hours of play!
They can decorate the house and label the Magic Mail Box to their liking.
Tip: Play along with them and also write a letter to your favourite person you wish to send via the Magic Mail Box.
Fill It Up Reward Jar
Entice young children to answer one question each day!
Children will get rewarded when the reward level is reached.
You will need:
- Empty jar/s
- Sticky note pad / Paper, scissors and sticky tape
- A pen
- Marbles / Pasta / Beans / Paper Clips / Rocks (or whatever you wish to use)
- Write the reward of choice on a paper (Tip: Get your children excited by involving them in deciding the reward).
- Cut paper to size (like in the photo) and stick to the empty jar. You can use multiple jars or one jar with tier system.
- Choose a suitable object/item to place in the jar each time they answer your question (Tip: Use any materials you can easily get your hands on, look around your house or in the pantry. Some great example include uncooked pasta pieces, pebbles, bottle caps, coloured paper clips.).
- Hide the jar or place it in a spot that children can’t reach, to avoid being tampered with.
- Prioritise your questions and pick the most important one to ask each day.
Really think about what you would like to know from them and remember not to overload them with too many questions.
Mix them up so that they don’t feel like they are being interrogated.
Good Old Walkie-Talkie
Face to face conversations and direct eye contact can make children feel uncomfortable and like they are being interrogated.
Talking through a phone and in different rooms may help ease the pressure, especially if they are talking from their safe and familiar space, for example their bedroom or play area.
If your child is at a young age, you can pretend to be their superhero on the other line, tuning in from ‘The Superman Channel’.
You might find that they will be more inclined to confide in you and pour their hearts out.
Tip: Depending on the function level of your walkie-talkie set, you can help set up different channels (or pretend play). They can connect to a specific channel depending on how they are feeling and who they want to talk to.
Why Is It So Important to Start at an Early Age
Children from ages 3+ start to learn how to interact with other people and share their feelings.
Talking and listening to them is especially important, to show that you are always there for them, and that they can always come to you.
Regardless of what the topic is, any form of communication is vital, to build a special bond between the two of you.
Knowing that they are not alone in any situation, isolated or unheard, is key to a healthy relationship with your child.
Essential Communication Skills
Having a support network at home means that your kids will know where and who they can turn to for advice without being judged when they hit a problem and to express frustration, embarrassment, sadness or fear.
Look out for the signs of unusual behavior, including body language.
They can be a good indicator and raise alarm bells that something is not quite right. For example, your 4 year old child returns home from preschool and immediately goes to his room, rather than having an afternoon snack in the kitchen, which he always has after school.
He might tell you that he’s tired, but in fact something happened in school.
Check if he is OK and keep a close eye on him.
Sometimes, to listen and just be present, is all it takes for a child to open up and tell you about their day.
Through their story telling or play, they might share a significant incident that exposes their true underlying feeling and thoughts. Therefore, pay full attention to what they have to say and respond when appropriate and in a sensitive manner without overreacting, as it may cause them to retreat.
Children are smart and have sensitive souls, they will know the minute you stop focusing on them.
So, give them your all, listen to every single detail and show empathy. They might be little, but they are as important as you and anyone else.
Give them time, even in your busy schedule, to form a deep connection with you.
Just start talking, is the key when you don’t know how to start or what to talk about with your children.
Begin by talking about something of interest to them, like their favourite toy or activity, and once the ice has broken, the conversation will flow naturally.
Sometimes asking a question which they don’t expect can be quite effective to catch their attention, like ‘If you could have a super power, what would it be?’
Ask open-ended questions, rather than questions that only require single worded or close-ended answers.
Talk in their language and use examples that they are familiar with, for maximum engagement.
Touch on all kinds of feelings (happy, anger, fear, embarrassment and sadness) to help develop their understanding of different emotions and how to cope with them.
Share with them some details about your day, in return, it can help them feel closer to you and have an honest and open conversation with you.
Listen with intent and respect what they have to say. Engage with them by asking “Why” or “Tell me more!”.
It’s OK Not to Have All the Answers
But, recognising that you need support from others is crucial.
Talk to others in your network, your partner, other parents and teachers about your concerns.
Be truthful and willing to take advice from others.
Seek professional help if required, there is no shame in that, we all want the best for our children.
Most importantly, don’t put the blame on yourself. Instead, understand that every child is different and unique.
Sometimes, it is just about having the correct tools, to have it going in the right direction.
Wrapping It All Up
Open communication between a parent and child starting in early childhood is crucial, to begin building trust and a safe environment to share their thoughts and feelings.
Make time to always be involved and available for your child, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Try experimenting with different fun ways to strike up conversations, and involve the whole family.
Now It's Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed this post and it provided you with the help needed.
Now it'll be great to hear what you have to say.
Let me know which method you are going to try first?
Please share with me what methods worked for you, as this can be helpful for other parents too!
Or you might have a question to ask?
Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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