A friend of mine told me that when you have teenagers you have to get a hot tub. I asked him why. He said they will talk to you in the hot tub.
So I bought a hot tub and found out that he was absolutely correct. Over the years we have had great conversations in the hot tub. My wife and I have learned about school, their teams, their friends and what was going on in their lives. We talked about religion, politics and lots of sports depending on the season. Now when they come home to visit we spend a little time in the hot tub at night.
The dinner table is another great place to have discussions. It is important to have family dinners. It is a place to discuss how the day went and hear what they learned during the day.
Time in the SUV was another place that my wife and I have had great conversations with the kids. Growing up my kids were involved in a lot of activities and drive time gave us time to talk one on one with them or as a family. It was also interesting to have or listen to conversations when their teammates or friends were in the SUV.
We also had boats as the kids grew up and we would spend weekend time in the boat. Sometimes we would just float and swim off the boat. My wife and I would engage the kids in conversations on a wide variety of topics.
What do these all have in common? They all are confined spaces. Sure they can get up and leave the dinner table or they can get out of the hot tub. It is kind of hard to get out of a moving vehicle or a boat in the middle of the lake. They are also spaces where everyone tends to be relaxed.
Now once you are in one of these places the next question is, what do you ask them? I can tell you that you do not want to ask the question, “How was your day?”. You will get a one word answer and the conversation is over. I know this from experience. Ask questions that require more than a one word response. It is also important that you share about what is going on in your work and life as well.
Here are some good questions.
What did you learn today?
What was the best thing that happened today?
What did you do at practice? This can be for a sport or activity.
What are you going to do this weekend?
Tell me about how it is going at school.
How are your friends? What are they doing this summer? (Ask about them by name so they know you know who their friends are and that you truly care)
What do you want to do when you get out of high school or college? Why?
What do you think of …….?
What is your toughest class in school?
Tell me how your calculus class is going? What are you learning? (Or any other subject)
Always come back to the things you talked about previously so they know you listened and that you are engaged in the conversations.