Sept. 26, 2022

Ask Amy: How Do I Get My Little Guy to Open Up?

How do we get our kids to open up to us about their days at school? When our kids say “nothing” happened, are we supposed to push harder, or let them just sit there? Here’s how to get kids talking– plus when it might be more productive to let it go.

Some kids have "lower set points" for needing to process experiences verbally and they may naturally be a quieter kid, which means parents may need to let go of the expectations they have set for having long, deep conversations with their kids every day after school.

This week, a listener asks:

I have three boys: almost 7, almost 4, almost 3. I've tried to do the rose/ thorn/ bud reflection at dinner to get even the tiniest glimpse in to my almost-7 year old's day. And I am constantly responded to with either "I dunno" or "So many things I can't even begin to tell you."

When I/we say "Well, pick one" he will just shrug and say "I dunno" or stay silent.

We will sit in the silence in order to give him time to think but he will always move on to a different topic - usually something he's obsessed with and nothing related to what we have been talking about.

I've often said things like "Well, I'd love to know when you think of one thing" or have encouraged him to take his time, but we get nothing.

At the end of last year I discovered he was fighting with another boy and that they were no longer friends - I had thought they were buddies! It turns out all the other moms knew because their kids had talked about their "beef". I feel like if my kid would open up maybe this would've come to my attention.

I feel sad and frustrated, how do I get him to talk?

There are some things you can try to break the ice: let your kid decide on the topic of conversation; vary the time of day when you try to talk to your kid; and use conversation cards like these Table Topics for Kids to get the conversation going. But forcing the issue is usually counterproductive. If your child is content overall, there's a chance that not sharing about their day isn't actually holding them back.

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