10 Strategies to Connect With Your Child Through the Art of Conversation

As parents who desire connection with our children at a deeper level, it’s helpful to remember that there are layers to a conversation, much like water. We have a choice: slowly wade into the shallow or dive headfirst into the deep. Since not all circumstances allow for diving into the deep, here are ten strategies to better connect with your child and foster the art of conversation.

  1. Prepare ahead of time.

Not all conversations are predictable, but many times, we can cultivate a culture of conversation in the rhythms of our days. Preparing ahead of time to engage when the moment arises will allow for intention and limit awkwardness. Considering your day, what’s the best time to connect with this child? Is it bedtime? Is it in the car? Is it over dinner? Think and prepare now so that you can be looking for a moment to engage rather than regret a missed opportunity.

  1. Observe your surroundings.

You know your child. In what surroundings does your child tend to share more? Whether you have something to share or simply want to check in, assess if the surroundings are appropriate for the conversation or if another time might be better. Who is around? Is it just the two of you, or will others prohibit discussion? Believe it or not, our surroundings can make or break a meaningful conversation, so pay attention to what is around you.

  1. Focus on them first.

Remember, the conversation is not about you. Whether talking to our children or a friend, not everything must be about us. Feel free to share a personal story or talk about the things you enjoy, but be sure to ask questions about their topics of interest. Ask them how their day was first. Regardless of age, our children know when we are engaged in a discussion for their good or ours. A well-constructed conversation is always mutually beneficial.

  1. Ask open-ended questions.

In order to stimulate rich conversation, the best strategy is to avoid simple yes and no questions. Instead of asking, did you have a good day? Try asking, what was something that made you smile today? The key is to stay curious. Be a student of your child and pray for a genuine desire to learn who they are and how they think. Yes or no questions tend to lead to short answers that may not accurately reflect the heart of our child, so as you desire to go from the shallow end to the deeper end, open-ended questions can lead you there.

  1. Learn to listen.

I’ve heard it said we can only love as well as well as we listen, so practice asking a question and not interrupting. Try empathizing to understand where they are coming from without sharing your opinion or starting to lecture. The most effective way to listen well is to listen with your eyes and body language. Even in your response, you can demonstrate listening by commenting on something they just shared. If our children don’t feel like they are being heard, they will be less likely to speak.

  1. When in doubt – encourage.

The bottom line is that, as parents, there are times when we simply don’t know what to say. Perhaps the disappointment is deep, or the pain is more profound still. Every conversation does not have to include a litany of questions. Sometimes, the best conversation is encouragement. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us that “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (ESV) So, compliment what they chose to wear that day or an action you observed from the sidelines. Start with, “I love how you …”, then watch as your encouragement softens walls that may have built up over time. Our children hear enough negativity from others, so be a voice that builds up and encourages.

  1. Know your destination.

Knowing the purpose of the conversation is as important as anything else when seeking connection. Is it a conversation centered around loving, learning, or lecturing? Is it just for fun, or do you need to gain more information on something? This is where understanding the layers of a conversation is incredibly helpful. Start in the shallow end by commenting on their day or their game. Questions about a fun movie or an upcoming birthday party are a great way to get started. Then, wade deeper with a “tell me more” prompt. Many times, this will usher in a deeper heart issue that invites more vulnerability. Not all moments are for all layers, but knowing your desired destination in a conversation will help you reach it.

  1. Avoid known distractions.

A top conversation killer is a distraction. We know this because we feel it, too. Whether an unexpected interruption or a hurried posture, we can dampen the conversation unknowingly. One main way to prevent distraction is to put your phone away. This not only models for your child the importance of eye contact but also authentic engagement. Be aware of other distractions that are within your control, like your surroundings, focus, and timing. Even our tone of voice can quickly end a meaningful connection with our children. So, think about what helps you eliminate outside distractions to better focus on your child. Many times, our undistracted attention is the most valuable gift we can give.

  1. Remember, they are a real person, just like you.

It helps to remember your child has real fears, joys, pain, desires, insecurities, dreams, and nerves—just like you. When we put ourselves in their shoes during a conversation, it allows for a more natural conversation. If we can remember what our life was like at their age, it helps us grow in compassion and understanding as well. Share your failures and your struggles, then watch as it fosters an openness to the deeper levels.

  1. Point them to Jesus.

As parents who are seeking to love our children well and foster the art of conversation, don’t forget that the most important thing we can do is to foster their love for Jesus equally. In each conversation, think of how you can encourage your child to keep their eyes fixed on God. How did God provide for them in that situation? Is there a verse that can help them? Do you need to stop talking and just pray? By pointing them to something greater than this world, our conversations take on a deeper meaning automatically. So, look for ways to draw their attention off their circumstances and onto God’s greater purpose.

If there is any art worth cultivating with our children, let it be the art of conversation. Keeping the lines of communication open with your child from the toddler years through the teenage years and beyond is worth the work. Allow these strategies to guide you, then pray and trust God to grow fruit in your relationship for years to come.

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