March 23, 2023

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Open-Ended Questions Develop Emotionally Healthy Kids

4 min read

As parents, we have so many things to worry about. Are our kids getting enough sleep? Are they excelling academically? Are they eating a balanced diet? Are they physically healthy? The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, though, all of our worries can sometimes focus on our kids’ physical needs much more than their emotional wellbeing. In most cases, though, our kids’ mental health matters just as much as their physical health, and we need to remember that. Luckily, we can do a lot for our children’s emotional health just by asking them questions each day.

RELATED: How Moms Can Be More Aware Of Their Own Emotional Health And Needs

Why Asking Questions Helps Kids

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Sometimes parents worry about coddling their kids or being overly involved in their lives. However, you can’t love your children too much or give them too much attention. In fact, the team at PsychCentral says there’s no substitute for genuine, affectionate connections with your kids.

While there are many ways to develop this connection, many experts agree that asking your children open-ended questions that require them to express themselves and tap into their emotions is one of the best ways to do that. When you ask your kids questions and actively listen to their responses, you give them the space to express their feelings without repressing or masking them. This helps your child develop emotional intelligence, and it sets the stage for them to use assertive communication in other relationships as they grow up.

Furthermore, Emma Loggenberg shared with Under 5s that asking kids open-ended questions also encourages you as a parent to listen to your child share information. This helps your child feel like what they have to say and how they feel matters to you, which can boost their self-esteem and encourage them to share more with you over time. When kids share their feelings and views of the world with you and you respond positively, they learn to trust people and learn that sharing feelings with others is a positive experience.

Ask These Questions For Your Child’s Emotional Health

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According to Hillary Gruener of the Word From The Bird blog, there are five very specific questions parents should ask their kids if they want to nurture their emotional health. Gruener says these questions will not only help your child feel like they can confide in you but also help them see that you empathize with them and genuinely care about their interests and feelings. These questions can help you slow down and build deep, authentic connections with your children instead of just surface-level relationships.

In Gruener’s opinion, you should take time each day to ask your kids the following:

  • How are you feeling emotionally today?
  • What would you like to do with me today?
  • What happened that made you smile today?
  • What are you thankful (or grateful) for?
  • Is there anything you want to tell me that might be hard to share?

While this list is a great start, it’s obviously not exhaustive. For example, this list doesn’t cover any sort of physical sensations your child may experience that could be an indication of stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Furthermore, it doesn’t necessarily dig deep enough to give you a full picture of what your kids experience during the day when they are at school or under the care of a babysitter.

If you’d like additional questions to ask your child, Nicole Spector of NBC News suggests some of the following questions:

  • How is your body feeling?
  • Do you find it hard to fall asleep? What makes it difficult?
  • Is anything causing you to feel scared or worried?
  • Who do you spend time with during the school day? Does anyone bother you at school?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do during recess?

At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of what questions you ask, but more that you take the time each day to check in with your child and actively listen to their responses. The more you talk to your child and build a strong emotional bond, the more likely they will be to have the ability to communicate with you when something isn’t right.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to protect our kids from the negatives of the world. However, you can do specific things to help your kids develop emotional health and resiliency so they feel strong enough to tackle nearly anything the world throws at them. By taking time each day to sit down with your kids and ask them open-ended questions that encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts with you, you can develop emotionally healthy kids who grow into skillful adults.

Sources: PsychCentral, Under 5s, Word From The Bird, NBC News

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