The day comes when your child hits a point where the incessant talking does stop. Your ride suddenly ends. And you want it back. And the entrance to the ride is blocked--no simple line to wait in anymore. You know your child has complex thoughts going on in his head and you want him to confide those with you. You desperately want that ride back!
You can get your child to revert back to the non-stop talking of 3-4 year olds. You can get back on that ride. And the best part is that as an older child, the ride seems to last an appropriate length. It leaves you satisfied, thrilled, and wanting more all at the same time. But the trick is finding your way back into that line.
When you want your child to open up and talk to you, you need time on your side. You need to spend a good amount of time with the child before the child will start spilling forth all of his thoughts.
There is a trick I call "triad communication." Triad communication is your entrance into the line for that roller coaster ride. Triad communication is simply you communicating with your child while doing a third activity. This can be as simple as washing dishes, going for a walk, or coloring. All people are more likely to open up and talk if there is that "third wheel" so to speak. It is easier for a person to share his or her thoughts and feelings when he can focus on something other than just the emotions and the talking.
This trick is true of any gender. I find it most helpful, however, on my son. In my house, I have two who are past the age of endless talking, one taking me on the ever-lasting ride, and one slowly taking me up that first hill.
The line for Brayden's roller coaster ride is longer than it is for my daughter. He is stereotypical male in his desire to sit and "visit about his feelings"--in other words, he doesn't want to. There is nothing about that that is appealing to him. The best way for me to get him to talk is to spend time with him doing things.
And this is why certain things like one-on-one dates and chores around the house are so incredibly valuable. Not only is your child getting some good time with mom or dad and/or learning important life skills, but the child is allowing you into line to ride the roller coaster. Some children will open up faster than others. Some will need a couple of hours of working on something before he suddenly decides to start sharing everything that is going on in his head.
I have a good friend who does one-on-one dates with her children. Her oldest is a boy of 11 years old. She has told me that when she does dates with him, she will start with an activity like bowling. They go an bowl and have fun. Then they go to dinner. She says at dinner, he will open up and talk freely. She told me that if she reverses the activity and starts with dinner, he is not talkative.
If you want to get your child to talk to you, the approach is not to sit on the couch and face each other and say, "How are you feeling today?" The approach also is not "I have 15 minutes to get some good talking in then I need to get back to XYZ." On Monday this week I posted about Sacrifices and Investment. This is one of those situations where you sacrifice in order to invest. You sacrifice your time now in order to invest into having a relationship where your child is comfortable confiding in you.
Here are some ideas for you to create situations that lend themselves to triad communication. Not every activity will be beneficial to every child. A child who doesn't particularly enjoy art projects isn't likely to open up while you color together. Try different things to see what works for your child. Find the right thing and you will be in line for that ride of communication:
- Cooking: We rotate through and have one child help with dinner each night. Cooking or baking is a great way to create a triad communication situation. One trick, though, is to maintain patience through the mess that is sure to be created. Your child will not open up if you are freaking out about spilled flour.
- Chores: Do chores with your child. Clean a bathroom together. Wash windows together. Shovel the driveway together. Rake leaves together. Weed the garden together. Make beds together. There are plenty of things you can do together.
- Teach Skills: You can teach your child new skills as your child is old enough. I know my husband enjoyed working in the garage with his dad. It was a time he learned to work on cars and engines and it provided lots of time for talking.
- Date Night: Go on dates. Make the date long enough the child will have time to relax and then open up (the length of time will depend on the child).
- Run Errands: Take just one child out to run errands.
- Read One-on-One: We read to each child individually each night. This gives one-on-one time with the child to allow for conversation. I find children are often more interested in talking right before bed. I don't know if it is a stall tactic or something about the time of day, but it is a great time to get kids talking.
- Get Active: Go for walks. Play basketball. Ride bikes. Do something active together.
- Do Art Projects: Sit down and color together or do some other art project.
There are so many possible ways to make this happen. They can be a part of your daily, normal life so long as you don't overschedule your family. Make it a priority to be able to have time with your child where talking can happen if your child wants it to. You will be amazed at the power triad communication can have. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Oh, and a little marriage tip, you can also try this on your husband ;)