Starting conversations with your child

One of the best ways to deal with bullying is to develop your ability for starting conversations with your child and really learn to communicate with them on a deeper level. 

If you have a good rapour with your child and you chat with them on a daily basis these tips may help and make it easier to deal with more serious issues. 

If you have found your child is not speaking to you ...this is a great place to start.

Importance of starting conversations with your child

It seems one day they are rambling on and on and you can’t keep up with them… They chat away non-stop. You wish they would stop if only for a minute.  Then the next day you notice all the rambling has been replaced with an eery quiet.  They have a problem and now you need them to talk to you but they are distant. Being able to start a conversation could be a life saver...literally.

iF bullying is aN Immediate threat

If this is an emergency, your child or someone else could be at serious risk  please take appropriate action. Call police, call the school, get child advocacy involved. Whatever action is required to prevent someone from being harmed.

However, if you notice subtle changes in your child  and/or you review the warning signs and think there might be a problem or you just want to build your communication and your relationship with your child the following pointers and questions will help. 

Create opportunities to talk

So, how do you get them to speak to you?  How do you get the conversation started? 

My suggestion is to start by creating opportunities to talk by setting it up as part of a routine:

  • Take a minute to greet them at the door when they get home.  Stop what you are doing. Give them a big hug (or not, if that is too over the top for you) and ask them about their day. 
  • Create a bed time routine. Every night before bed I ask my children: What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part? What is one thing you are grateful for today? If something serious comes up like bullying; I acknowledge it and we decide together if we should discuss it now and if not we make time the following day.
  • If your child approaches you needing to talk and you are busy. Avoid a quick off the cuff remark that might prevent your child from coming to you in the future.  It is best to tell them you are busy and make a time later when you can talk. This tells them they are important. TIP: Don't forget to follow up with them.

Life is so busy. It is okay to multi task but you want to make sure if they say something that requires more attention you let them know the two of you will make time later so you can really listen to them.

  • Invite them to help with supper
  • Offer to give them a ride to school or events
  • Go for lunch together
  • Do a shared activity you both enjoy together (painting, exercise, crafts)
  • Around the dinner table (make family meals a must)
  • No matter how old you can tuck them in 

Also, you want this to be casual…Not an inquisition. If it has been awhile they may take some time to warm up to the idea. Be consistent and patient.  In the beginning,  you may get the rolling of the eyes…or "Really?" ... but if you stick to it…every day…they will realize you are serious and one day the conversation begins.

QUestions to get the conversation started

Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • How was your day today?
  • What kind of a day are you having?
  • Tell me about one thing you learned today?
  • How are things going for you?
  • What’s new?
  • Tell me something interesting about your day?

Note how these are open questions and cannot be answered with a yes, no, good, bad response.

Keep them talking

You can keep the conversation going by simply encouraging them by saying:

  • Oh,
  • Mmmmhmmm,
  • Tell me more about that…
  • That sounds interesting,
  • Go on
  • Ok
  • Right,
  • And then…and then…until there are no more details about the story 

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is your time.  Take the time to ask and really listen and this will set up the rapour you need to be able to tackle some of the more difficult issues like bullying.

Closing the conversation

Depending on the conversation that is probably enough. Just let them speak while you actively listen.

Some topics will require a little more. You need a way to close the conversation and help your child reflect and understand. Totally not necessary talking about what you had for lunch but with deeper issues like  friendshipbullying, or any topic that has feelings involved you will want to take a moment to help your child get closure by simply asking the following questions: 

  • What is clearer to you now?
  • Does this all make more sense?
  • What is your understanding of the situation now that we have talked?
  • How do you feel about the situation now?
  • Has this been helpful to you? How?

 Acknowledge and appreciate the courage it took to speak to you about their feelings.  Make sure you tell them how much you appreciate everything  they  have shared with you.  Reassure them you are there for them and would like them to be able to speak to you... about bullying, sex, drugs, no matter the subject.

This leaves the door open for your child to be able to talk to you in the future.

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