Sitting around the dining room table fielding questions is no fun for you or the kids. Next time you schedule a family meeting, keep it casual. Focusing on how you can foster a connection and get your kids to open up will keep everyone's attention spans active.

  • Picking a Time
    Bringing up questions after school when kids' brains are drained results in eye rolls. Instead, plan a family meeting on the weekend when you're not rushing to work or shuttling to dance practice. In addition, engage with your child during the planning process. Use a calendar featuring silly pictures or daily jokes to read aloud with your child as you look for a date, or plan the meeting on a unique holiday, like National Cookie Day (and celebrate accordingly during your meeting). Let your child color that day on the calendar using bright markers so she feels connected to the plans.
  • Choosing a Location
    When kids anticipate an adventure, excitement (and words) flow. Get out of the house and secretly combine an outing to the zoo or indoor climbing wall with your meeting. It's easier for little ones to talk candidly while playing than when getting the stare down from Mom. If you have the meeting at home, pick a relaxed location. Chat over a picnic on the living room floor or gather in the family room with a promise of a movie night after the meeting. For shy children, use a bowl of popcorn as a "talking stick." Whoever digs in for more munchies has to speak. You could even plan the meeting based on a theme, such as "PB and J in your pj's."
  • Starting a Conversation
    When you meet, talk about the activity you're engaged in before casually slipping in open-ended questions that allow your child to blurt out whatever's on his mind. Encourage all family members to drop anonymous questions into a cookie jar before the meeting. Keep tough issues lighthearted by reading the questions out to the group in a silly voice or making the speaker wear a funny hat that signals only she can talk when donning the goofy headwear. To get kids interested in talking, tell them they may answer in rhyme or show off their dance moves when replying.
  • Connecting With Each Child
    During the family meeting, help each child open up in his own way. One good option is to provide art supplies and paper. Some kids will communicate by drawing the answers to your questions, while others may prefer to write a poem. Or, dig out the box of blocks and dolls. Let the kids build and play as you talk. Keeping their fingers busy will ease them into the conversation and you can pick up on their emotions by how they handle the toys.

Family meetings don't have to be tedious or intimidating. Learn what's going on with your child by connecting through a playtime activity that sparks his sense of curiosity and wonder.