5 Topics To Talk About With Your Kids
I’m not sure if it’s because of culture or because of the language barrier, but as a child, conversations with my parents were usually limited to physical well-being, schoolwork, chores, and parental directives.
你吃饱了吗？Are you full?
你上火了。多喝一点儿水。You have too much “heat” in your body. Drink more water.
作业做好了吗？Have you finished your homework?
收拾你的衣服！Put away your clothes!
When I became a parent and my kids started getting older, I realized that I was ill-equipped to talk with them about anything other than their basic needs. I didn’t know how to dialogue with them about their inner life in a way that connected with their hearts.
Thankfully, after much observation of other parents, reading of parenting books, and trial and error, I’ve been able to expand my conversational repertoire.
If you want to start building deeper connection with your kids, here are 5 conversation topics that I recommend:
1. Your Own Feelings
Our kids need us to model a healthy emotional life for them. We shouldn’t just be expressing “positive” feelings, but those we consider “negative” as well. No feeling should be off-limits. As they see us express joy, anger, frustration, and sadness, we can name our feelings and show them appropriate ways to deal with them.
“I’m sorry if I snapped at you. Mommy is stressed right now because guests are about to come over and dinner’s not ready.”
“I’m crying because I’m feeling homesick. I miss 公公婆婆.”
“The air pollution is less than 100 today! That makes me so happy! Let’s go out to play!”
Talking openly about our feelings teaches our children that they are free to experience the full range of emotions.
It shows our kids that feelings come and go. That feelings are not meant to be suppressed, ignored, or shamed.
Feelings are meant to be felt.
It also gives them the vocabulary to talk about their own feelings.
2. Your Child’s Feelings
Last week, I came upon my youngest, K.K., scribbling on a birthday card to a friend and making it look like a huge mess. I screamed, “What are you doing?! Stop!!” He immediately became sullen. I tried to apologize for snapping at him, but he would have none of it. He spent the rest of the afternoon pouting and moping around.
Later that evening, I curled up with him and asked, “Did Mommy hurt your feelings when she yelled at you?” He nodded, tears welling up in his eyes.
“I’m really sorry. Next time, when Mommy does that, please tell me how you feel. Say, ‘It doesn’t make me feel nice when you talk to me like that, Mommy.’” I had him practice saying it to me, and then we role played. He ended up feeling heard and empowered.
Helping our kids talk about their feelings is a total game changer.
It makes them more emotionally attuned to themselves.
It empowers them to know their emotional limits and ask for help.
It enables us as parents to get to the heart of the matter instead of simply looking at the misbehavior.
It establishes the foundation for empathy towards others.
So read books about emotions. Highlight a character’s feelings in a movie. Print up a feelings wheel or a mood chart. Use the online Atlas of Emotions. Give these tools to your children to equip them with the awareness and language to talk about their emotions with you.
3. Your Mistakes
In authoritarian households, parents are infallible. They don’t show their weaknesses, won’t admit their mistakes, and can’t be questioned. This obviously leads to some pretty unhealthy family dynamics, like perfectionism, hypocrisy, and helplessness.
One solution is simply to be honest about our own shortcomings as parents.
NoNo, my oldest, is a perfectionist and worries about failing. He feels insecure and unsafe when he can’t do things well. It sometimes keeps him from trying new things or persevering when things get hard. So my husband and I have taken to talking about our own mistakes and failures.
Like the time I wanted to ask my Chinese friend if she was wearing long johns, but accidentally said panties instead. “天气冷了。你有没有穿内裤呢？”
Or the time Daddy bought an iPhone online and it ended up being fake.
Or just this morning when I lost my temper with them, again.
Normalizing mistakes shows our kids that we don’t expect perfection from ourselves, or from them. There is love and acceptance apart from performance.
It demonstrates that failure doesn’t have to be scary. It’s never the end of the world. We can laugh at ourselves and appreciate our humanity.
It teaches them that mistakes are an essential part of learning. Missteps can actually be stepping-stones to success if we can learn from them.
So let your family be a place where it’s safe to be imperfect, starting with you.
4. Jokes and Funny Stories
Sometimes, we tiger parents can be so serious.
I barely crack a smile when my boys show me the ridiculous comic books they draw, chock full of mindless violence and potty humor. Instead, I like to point out how they’ve misspelled a word: “It’s b-o-o-g-e-r.”
But becoming a gentle parent is about learning to become a more playful parent.
Loosen up. Laugh. Let your hair/man bun down.
- Tell each other jokes around the dinner table.
- Talk about funny things you did as a child.
- Come up with a silly poem together, each person taking a turn to add a rhyme.
- Ask each other “Would you rather…” questions.
Laughter creates special memories, facilitates a trusting environment, and reduces stress.
We all could probably use a little more of it.
5. Whatever Your Child Wants to Talk About
Don’t always dominate the conversation with teachable moments and parental perspectives. Let the kids guide the conversation sometimes.
Sure, they may spend the next half hour talking about Minecraft, or how to make slime, or that viral YouTube video—stuff that may make your eyes glaze over. But discussing topics that they find interesting shows that you are interested in their world. It lets them know that you care about them, even if you don’t care about the subject matter.
So try out these 5 untigering topics.
Deepen your connection with your child as you move towards more respectful, meaningful, and playful conversation.
What else do you think it’s important to talk with your kids about? Comment below!