The emotional bond between a parent and child can be strengthened when you communicate healthily with them. These 5 questions you can ask your kids will help bridge the emotional gap that can sometimes begin to form when a child reaches the age of 6.

Questions to help your child better process their emotions

In today’s society, parents are faced with the very real probability that their child will someday suffer from a mental health illness.

Statistics showed in 2014, one in every five adults had a diagnosable mental disorder. That’s 18.1% of the population. And that was a long time ago.

The same can be said for young adults. 20% currently are or will be at some point diagnosed with a mental health illness such as depression, anxiety, or substance use.

The percentage of youth age 8-15 with a diagnosable mental disorder is as follows.

Any disorder – 13.1%

Mood disorders – 3.7%

Major depressive disorder – 2.7%

So what should we as parents do with this information?

Should we sit back, hope, and pray that our kids are mentally healthy? Or is there something we can do to help them accept themselves, better process negative emotions, and learn to navigate through difficulties?

I write a lot here on Word from the Bird about bridging the emotional gap between parents and children to have healthy communication and relationships.

Today, I specifically want to address how we communicate to our kids that will positively affect them and nurture their emotional and mental health. I genuinely believe that when the family unit is healthy, our kids will have a better chance at being mentally and physically healthy.


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— Hillary Gruener

Why you should be asking your child these questions daily

Sometimes our attention as parents misses the emotional mark of our children’s needs, to simply providing for them physically. But children need so much more than a hot meal and quick convo at dinner. They need intentionality and for you to identify with them — empathize with them — and help them see hope in this life.

Along with modeling what a healthy person looks like, we are given the responsibility to help our children navigate their negative emotions as parents.

And even though we may feel helpless and think that the only way our kids will learn how to do that is with a therapist, we are not helpless, and we can directly influence our children and equip them to thrive emotionally in our culture.

Not to say that your child shouldn’t have a therapist or counselor.

There are situations that your child may need outside help.

In fact, it takes humility on a parent’s part to allow their children a mentor, or other healthy adults in their life, such as a counselor.

Parenting also includes accepting that you won’t always have the answers — and that’s okay. What’s important is that you do your best to research, understand, and apply everything you can to better identify with your children and give them the tools to work through their emotions.

Also, check out – Emotionally Healthy Children Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things

What a Boy Needs From His Mom

What a Boy Needs From His Dad

5 questions that help your child feel like they can confide in you

1. How are you feeling emotionally today?

Many parents get lost in their busy days, and asking your child something as simple as, “Hey, how are you?” sometimes doesn’t happen. But even that question doesn’t necessarily hit the mark either.

By asking the question, “How are you feeling emotionally today?” you may open up a whole new opportunity to understand your child’s world, especially if you notice them feeling a bit down.

By addressing the “feelings” and “emotions” with that question, you are communicating to them that they do have feelings and emotions, and it’s perfectly okay to feel them, voice them, and share them with you. You’re expressing to them that you care to know about their emotions, and in return, they feel safe to share them.

Don’t say…

Don’t assume something is wrong by saying, “What’s wrong?” But instead, allow them to share their heart. Tell them you are always there for them and create a non-judgmental space where they can share ANYTHING with you without punishing them for it.

If they open up with you, make sure you don’t listen to respond and fix, but rather listen to understand.

Sometimes I make the mistake of trying to fix a bad situation for my son right after he tells me what happened, thinking the reason he told me was because he wanted my advice. Give your advice, so they are pointed to hope, but make sure it’s the right timing and reasoning.

You could say, “Oh man, I’m so sorry you’re going through that. I am here for you. I love you. Would you like to know what I would do in this situation?”

And if they don’t want that, then leave it. But, them knowing that you are there for them is sometimes enough to be able to navigate through that difficult circumstance.

Check out my life journals for kids – an interactive and creative way for your child to learn how to better navigate their emotions.

2. What would you like to do with me today?

So many times, my older son has asked me this question. I’ve observed that if I ask it first, his world lights up, and he is SO excited that I thought of it first. Asking your kids questions they ask you often shows that you identify WITH them and want to take the initiative.

Time spent together as a family is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. But make sure it’s intentional. That means you don’t check your phone or only do something YOU want to do.

Even if it’s 15 minutes of intentional time doing something they love, it will mean the world to them. If you can’t do 15 minutes of intentional time with your child daily, I suggest you move things around and find the time.

I don’t say that in a judgemental way, but mentally caring for your child will always require time spent with them. It’s just that simple.

Check out my post about what I did to help my debilitating PMS symptoms.

3. What happened today that made you smile or laugh, or …

You fill in the blank. Asking your child these questions that will not end in a yes or no, will help them think about the answer instead of quickly responding with a “NO.”

When I ask my son this after school, he sometimes has an answer, but not always. The point is that you care: You care to know about his day. You care to know if they were treated unkindly. You care to know that they felt safe.

Your children need to know you care, even about the most minute, mundane, and sometimes ridiculous events of their adolescent life.

I think my son has now told me ten times that this girl at school has a crush on him. And every time he tells me, I am interested and ask more questions.

Having an emotionally healthy relationship with your children requires patience and the understanding that you sometimes hold their little hearts in your hands. Be ever so careful with it.

4. What are you thankful or grateful for today?

Along with asking the questions that are good conversation starters, it’s vital that you help them see the good things that happen in their life.

In western civilization, kids are unfortunately unaware of what they have and VERY aware of what they don’t have.

So how do we raise kids who are content and grateful? Well, along with being grateful and content yourself as to model for them what that looks like, you can ask them for what they are thankful for on a daily basis.

For some reason, in our family, the best communicative moments are at bedtime.

Our family believes in God, so this might looks different for you than it does for us. But we ask our son to think about three things he’s grateful for, either from that day or in general, and then we pray together, and he tells God thanks for all those things.

We don’t force him to pray but rather encourage it. If he doesn’t feel like praying, we leave it. We don’t want him to pray because we want him to pray, but rather because he wants to — this nurtures his spiritual life and helps him understand what a healthy relationship with God looks like.

We point him to the truth but then let him make a choice.

5. Is there anything you want to tell us that might be hard to say?

We don’t usually ask this every day, but instead, when he looks like he’s a bit down or sad about something.

We have created for our child a safe zone. In our conversations, we want our kids to know that we don’t judge them, that we are always on their side, and we want the best for them.

Naturally, things will happen in your child’s life that are surprising, unfortunate, or things you wish you could have changed for them. But the important thing is to create a space where they feel free to share those things.

Wouldn’t you rather your child feel safe to share the bad stuff instead of hiding it from you? To do that, you have to give them grace. If they share with you something sensitive that was hard for them to say, then reward that, don’t punish it.

By saying “that might be hard to say,” you acknowledge that they might have a hard time saying it, and that’s okay.

They need to know you are safe to share their deepest and darkest, without judgment, without condemnation.

Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Booklist to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is very helpful to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their progress and keep you from constantly reminding them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer.

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

Don’t forget to follow us on social media!

In summary

As parents, we want to be our kids’ safe place to share their hearts, difficulties, and emotions. To nurture their hearts means to identify with them and give them the freedom to fail.

Just as we aren’t perfect individuals, they aren’t either: They don’t need a hero to swoop in and save them from every difficult circumstance. They don’t need a judge and jury to sentence them because of the mistakes they’ve made. Instead, they need a safe zone to be who they are and a shepherd to guide them through the painful emotions or circumstances that might come their way.

Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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