Be patient

Sometimes it can take a while for children to ask their question or tell a story. This may be because they’re still young or because they find it difficult asking you about a sensitive subject. Try to resist the temptation to tell them to get to the point or hurry things along. By listening patiently, you allow your children to think and prepare their thoughts at their own pace, and you communicate that they’re worthy of your time.

Don’t interrupt your children when they’re telling you a story or asking a question. Wait until they come to a full stop of at least five seconds (you can count in your head!), then ask a follow-up question before giving your opinion. Ask them, for example, “What else?” or “What makes you say that?”

Be honest

For example, if your children ask you how many people are gay and you don’t know the answer, consider responding with something like: “That’s an interesting question, but I’m not sure. Let’s go look it up.” Don’t be afraid to let your children (of any age) see you don’t have all the answers; this is a better response than dismissing the question or rushing to give inaccurate information because you don’t know the answer on the spot. Letting your children see you don’t have all the answers is also a way to model good communication and healthy relationships — they learn to be open and honest, and to give themselves and others space to learn.

Listen to your children

While it’s normal and understandable for conversations to unfold as you’re performing routine tasks such as waiting for the bus, making dinner, or grocery shopping, make sure you also find time to give your children your undivided attention. Dedicating time and energy to listen to them shows you respect them, they are important to you, and the things that matter to them matter to you, too. It also helps you understand what your children really want to know, and what they already understand.

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