Let’s walk through a scene we parents know all too well.
Your son walks in from school, backpack abandoned by the front door, past your wide-open arms, and into his room where, depending on age, he may:
Play on the floor with his latest LEGO creation
Try for a three-pointer from the top bunk to the net across the room
Crank up some tunes and shut the door before plopping in bed
You stand in the hallway, offering a gentle but desperate, “How was your day?” His reply? A shrug and a mumble.
We’ve all been there. And yet, as parents, we can’t give up. We long to live in connection with our kids. And our kids, regardless of the message they’re sending, long to live in connection with us too.
In an effort to strengthen our bonds, let’s take a look at five questions we can ask that might just break through the distracted exterior and help us to get to the heart of the matter: helping our kids to feel seen and loved exactly as they are.
A quick note: Timing matters. It’s okay to give our kids a breather during transitional periods and to focus our energy on connecting when they’ve had a minute to relax alone and to adjust to the atmosphere of the moment.
Five Questions You Can Ask to Better Connect with Your Kids
These questions are short and simple. But they don’t have to stay that way. You can use these as a springboard for further conversation and connection by asking follow-up questions and using what you learn to create opportunities for bonding later on.
1. What are you most excited about right now?
This might just be the best (and easiest) jumping off point for connection. Ask the question and be prepared to listen—for a while. After all, kids are often bursting with excitement about one thing or another. To have an adult’s willing ear is a treat like no other.
2. What do you and your friends laugh about these days?
We parents are no doubt cooler than our kids give us credit for. Still, you can take advantage of your access to youth—ahem, your children—to learn more about what’s funny to this generation. And then, look for ways to get more laughs in your home.
3. What are you: going to be for Halloween / wanting for Christmas / planning for your birthday?
These special occasions give kids an opportunity to dream big. And they don’t even have to be right around the corner—kids can tell you their birthday dessert and activity of choice, the item they want most in the world, and who they’d love pretending to be with just a few minutes of consideration. Consider it a window into your child’s imagination.
4. What’s making you mad lately?
We can tend to expect our kids to be happy-go-lucky creatures—what care do they have in this world? But if we think back to our own childhoods, we know there was plenty enough to be frustrated about. Imagine if you’d had an adult who gave credibility to your concerns and helped you work through your emotions and maybe even find a solution? You can be that adult for your kids.
5. What’s something cool you heard or learned about recently?
Kids like to feel knowledgeable and—I’m learning from my own little dudes—sometimes know about things I can’t confirm without Googling (I’m looking at you Water Walkers). Give your child’s brain a chance to shine and look for ways to learn more about their interests together.
If it feels right, you might answer a few of these questions yourself occasionally—sharing one of your favorite Halloween costumes growing up, a cool fact you learned the other day, and maybe even something small that made you angry.
And the next time your kid walks past you as he gets home from school, maybe this time you’ll offer him a snack and say, “Let’s chat soon, okay?