Child psychologists tell parents to listen to their children, and they should. I have learned in my practice and in my life as a parent that it isn’t always clear how to get children to talk when you want to listen.

When children get home from school or parents arrive home from work, parent asks, “How was your day?” Answer, “Fine.” “Anything interesting happen?” “Nope.” I can’t say that I know why this happens, but I know that it does. So, when can you talk?

Many parents find that children talk when other distractions are excluded. Younger children often get chatty in the bath. Children younger and older share their day at bedtime. For children and adults worries often come forth at this time. For some it is helpful to share the worries at bedtime. For others it can complicate getting to sleep. In that case, it is better to stick to a bedtime routine that includes peaceful time with you but is structure, like a reading a book together.

Parents of teens know that the best way to find out what is going on is to drive in the car. Without direct eye contact and the distraction of TV teens often talk about their lives: drama with friends, worry about an assignment, the kinds of things you want to know. This assumes that the phone is turned off and the ear buds are out. You can ask politely for your child to stop texting or turn off the ipod, but just the fact that she is doing this, tells you something about her willingness to be open with you. Some groundwork needs to be done that goes beyond this piece.

I recommend that parents just “show up.” When your child is watching TV, drop in to watch. Maybe you can chat during commercials. Your child might appreciate your interest in his show, whether it’s The Simpsons, Sponge Bob, or South Park. In fact, you might enjoy the show yourself. Sit and watch when your child is playing a video game and ask questions about it. You could courageously try the game yourself if invited. Prepare to be laughed at.

During conversation at these times, it is important that you maintain a non-judgmental stance. Be genuinely curious about the show. Refrain from lecturing. You are trying to build a relationship and a space where your child might volunteer more about his life. It is not the place for you to ask about tests or progress reports. Those are topics that might make your child defensive, expecting a lecture or judgment. Of course, you need to know about those topics, just not in this context.

How do you get your children to talk to you? How do you get around the ipods and the texting? I would be very interested to hear.

Author's Bio: 

Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist, Carolyn Stone, Ed.D. ( educates parents of children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and anxiety about their children’s needs using humor and evidence-based practices. Parents learn new strategies through role play and homework. She teaches children to manage their anxiety and attention and to understand their learning styles. You can learn about Dr. Stone’s work from her blog at