Lots of parents tell me that they want their kids to have better conversations, whether that’s a more detailed chat at the end of the school day, sharing over the dinner table, or better conversations with their friends.
In this post I’m sharing my 3 top tips for helping your children have better conversations with you, and with other kids.
1. Plan ahead
Help your child come up with a plan for what to say. Some ideas for planning a conversation include:
- Write down a list of common topics of interest with a friend, which can become prompts for good topics of conversation with a specific person in mind
- Role play conversations using toys or apps such as Toca Town. You can practice different topics of conversation imagining your child is talking to a specific friend, and give them suggestions, hints, and feedback on their conversation turns. Keep it fun!
2. Use visuals to help plan and remember things to talk about
Sometimes thinking of things to say can be the hardest part of a conversation. Visual prompts make it a lot easier to think of ideas and remember what happened.
- Use photos on your phone to help your child remember details about a recent adventure, and use the photos to structure retelling the story
- Have an exciting object, picture or toy that your child can take to school to show to friends (make sure this is OK with school rules!)
- Use a printed page with pictures or emojis to help structure a chat about the day, over the dinner table. You could break down the daily review chat into topics like:
What did you eat today?
Who did you talk to at recess?
What did you like in class?
What didn’t you enjoy today?
Did you play sport?
Who made you laugh?
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3. Mix up comments and questions
Good conversations are made up of a mix of comments and questions, not a string of questions followed by simple answers.
- Teach your child about the difference between questions and comments by showing how you take your conversation turns with a mix of comments and questions. Explain and share examples of what a question is and some types of comments that you can make in response to another person
- Give your child hints that they can make a comment in response to someone else’s conversation turn. E.g. if a friend says “I went to Jervis Bay in the holidays” you can hint to your child “you could say where you went in the holidays”
- When you are having a chat with your child, steer clear of bombarding them with question after question. This can feel like a lot of pressure, and can make it harder for kids to feel confident or willing to answer. Help your child feel more motivated to join in a relaxed chat by using a mix of comments and questions yourself. Try to use at least 1 comment for each question you ask. Rather than ask “What did you do in art today?” you can make a comment like “I can see you have paint on your leg! Maybe it was art day today”
Many of these ideas and more come from the Secret Agent Society program, which is a fantastically fun and helpful group program that teaches children aged 8-12 to have better social skills. We run this group online, available all around Australia
Get in touch if your child has difficulty with conversations. We would be happy to talk about how we can help your child build conversation skills and have better chats with friends and family.