One of the most effective ways to promote a positive behavioral health in your home is to have ongoing conversations with your child. These conversations can be about the little things and the big things. Talking openly and honestly with your kids is one of the most effective ways to support their behavioral health. Whether it’s everyday topics like friends and school, or more serious topics like substance use, anxiety, or depression, it’s never too early to start the conversation.  Communication strengthens the bond between you and your child. Making time to ask them about their life and feelings will remind them that you are always there. And most importantly, be a good listener.

How can I connect with my child? 

There is no doubt that your house is often busy, and it is hard to find time to slow down and have conversations with your child during the hustle and bustle. But in reality, the short and frequent conversations can have a real impact on your child's decisions and their behavioral health. Try using everyday opportunities to talk- in the car, while driving to school, during dinner, or even while you are watching TV. Having more "little talks" takes the pressure off trying to get everything out in one long discussion and your child will be less likely to tune you out. 

Be available for your children

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk--for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car--and be available.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what's happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
  • Learn about your children's interests--for example, favorite music and activities--and show interest in them.
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.

Let your kids know you're listening

  • When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it's difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before you respond.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly.

Accept that change is part of living

  • Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
  • Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it's okay to disagree.
  • Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, "I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think."
  • Focus on your child's feelings rather than your own during your conversation.

Keys to Remember

  • Ask your children what they want or need from you in a conversation, such as advice, simply listening, help in dealing with feelings, or help solving a problem.
  • Kids learn by imitating. Most often, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems, and work through difficult feelings.
  • Talk to your children - don't lecture, criticize, threaten, or say hurtful things.
  • Kids learn from their own choices. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don't feel you have to step in.
  • Realize you children may test you be telling you a small part of what is bothering them. Listen carefully to what they say, encourage them to talk, and they may share the rest of the story.


Parenting is hard work...

Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children. But parenting is hard work and maintaining a good connection with teens can be challenging, especially since parents are dealing with many other pressures. If you are having problems over an extended period of time, you might want to consider consulting with a mental health professional to find out how they can help.



Print these conversations starters and place in a jar or bag at the dinner table!

Openers vs Slammers