Getting Kids to Talk and Open Up to You

Get actionable tips and steps you can take to get your kids to open up and talk to you. Learn how to implement it into your life and build your bond with your kids.

Mom and daughter together

When it comes to communication, your kids really put you on a roller coaster ride.

First, you can’t wait for that first little word. You are waiting in line just excited about that ride to start. You work so hard to get them to say something! Their first word is uttered and your ride begins!

You slowly climb to the top as they increase their vocabulary. Then they start to add sentences and you are so excited! That initial thrill of going down that first hill…

Then the talking seems to never, ever (ever) cease. You start to wish there was less talking. The roller coaster ride is fun, but you can’t possibly enjoy it all day every day. Every. Single. Day. All day.

The day comes when your child hits a point where the incessant talking does stop. Your ride suddenly ends.

And you want it back. The ride was intense, but the nothingness is depressing.

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.

How To Get Your Kids to Open Up

There are actionable things you can do to get your kids to talk to you.

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.

You cannot expect your child to just spill all as soon as you ask for it.

Triad Communication

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. The line for Brayden’s roller coaster ride was longer than it is for my daughters. He is stereotypical male in his desire to sit and “visit about his feelings”–in other words, he usually didn’t want to.

There was nothing about that that is appealing to him. The best way for me to get him to talk was 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 shared her experience of one-on-one dates with her children. When her oldest (a boy) was 11 years old, he needed more time to get talking. When she did dates with him, she would start with an activity like bowling. They would bowl and have fun. Then they went to dinner. She said at dinner, he would open up and talk freely. She told me that if she reversed the activity and started with dinner, he was 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.”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. Your child might not enjoy running errands with you, or might not think they enjoy it. But when they look back, they will have fond memories of those simple moments together.
  • Read One-on-One: We read to each child individually each night when they were younger. This gave 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.
  • Whatever Works: Find what makes sense for your family and what you have going on in life. We all have unique family and life situations. Think about what part of your day you could add your child into and make time for talking.

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!

Be Available at Bedtime

As I stated, kids love to talk at bedtime. Teenagers seem extremely interested in chatting when it is time for bed. Do your best to be able to engage at that time of day. We are tired for sure! It can be hard to stay awake or engaged. But remember to take advantage of any moment your child wants to talk.

Even if they start telling you something you have heard before, you will probably get new details as you listen at that time of day.


To get your kids to open up to you, you just need time, patience, and some tasks to do together. Enjoy that ride together!

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This post first appeared on this blog in December of 2013

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