You know how to start conversations with your children around their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

You can keep the conversation going.

But what if you have questions, concerns or advice?

After all, your job as a parent, caregiver, or educator is to teach children how to navigate complicated situations.

Now that they have told you what is going on, what do you do?

  • Ask for their ideas first. Before jumping in with your questions and advice, ask them to problem solve.
    • You can ask questions like:
      • “What do you want to do now?”
      • “How can we make this better?”
      • “How can I help?”
    • This lets them know you are on their team and allows them to feel empowered and listened to.

  • Ask permission. Let them know you have some questions or ideas and ask when they want to hear them. Now is the time for you to be open about your emotions and thoughts (remember, sharing your adult emotions models that emotions are normal and OK to talk about).
    • For example: “Even though this has been hard for me to hear, I’m glad you shared. I have a few questions. Do you want me to ask now or later?”
    • You can do the same thing before offering advice. If they do ask for a break, make sure to set a specific time to come back to the discussion so you can share what is on your mind too.
  • Choose your language carefully around follow-up questions. Notice how you ask questions. Asking “why” versus “what” questions can make others feel defensive.


"What made you do that?"

This helps you sound curious.


"Why did you do that?"

This can sound judgmental.

  • Remind yourself that the goal is to understand your child better and learn how to best support them moving forward. You cannot change the past, so try not to focus your questions too much on things that can no longer change.

Remember, these skills take practice, and it helps to build a daily habit over time.