Connecting the ‘umms’ and ‘aahs’: The Art of Conversing With Your Kids.
February 29, 2024
family talking

I found myself deep in conversation with some school mums the other day on a topic which,  ironically, revolved around conversation. We had been comparing notes on how the school year had begun for each of our children. Apart from the superficial topics like which teachers, friendships and tuckshop items the kids liked best, there were some big gaps in our information. How did they feel about being in Year X? Were lessons interesting, challenging or not challenging enough?  One mother admitted to not knowing who her child’s teacher was, another couldn’t identify who they played with at breaktime. 

‘Geez! What do we even talk about with these kids?’ one mother asked, exasperated.

It was an unsettling thought as we stood in the hot, humid glare of that Tuesday afternoon, waiting for our bundles of joy to race out of the school gate. The kids safely strapped in and the car pointed for their afternoon activity, I found myself switching immediately to auto-pilot. 

‘How was your day?’

‘Did you hand in your homework?’

‘What time does practice finish today?’

‘Did you find your school hat?’ 

‘Chicken or fish tonight for Taco Tuesday?

My heart sunk a little further. Maybe I was the problem.

Why aren’t we having big conversations with our children?

Being with our children in a way that evokes conversation has almost disappeared from our daily lives and there are a number of culprits: busy work and school schedules, hit and miss family time, the saturation of screens in the home… We’re not sitting down to the typical family dinner of generations past, and if we are, the distraction of mobile phones aren’t far away. It’s no wonder when we do get the chance to chat, we only cover the (very important) basics. 

Why are big conversations with our children important?

Talking ‘deep’ with our kids is as much about finding out their thoughts on whether it’s better to be funny or smart, as it is on developing strong connections with them that will help stand the tests of adolescence and adulthood. Engaging in big conversations:

  • help build connection and trust. 
  • develop critical thinking and communication skills.
  • introduce new concepts and perspectives.

My niece was on a podcast and hearing her thoughts on big things like climate change was so eye-opening. Listening to the way her Dad conversed with her in such a kind and respectful way was also pretty instructive. You can listen to it here . 

Screen Shot 2024 02 29 at 10.49.35 am

Sharing thoughts, experiences, and ideas in a safe and trusting environment not only strengthens your relationship, but is an essential part of their development into well-adjusted adults. Which sounds a lot more important than Taco Tuesday and the chicken or fish question.

How do I have big conversations with my children?

As the pioneers of parenting through this digital revolution, it’s up to us to enable and emphasise the importance of big conversations. You can do this by:

  • providing a space they feel safe and comfortable in.
  • being approachable (and brave!) enough to discuss any topic they are keen on, not just the ones we feel are important or worthy.
  • having a conversation starter ready to go. It can be current affairs or a whimsical would-you-rather question, just make sure you have one!  
  • asking open-ended questions. And then more open-ended questions. Yes or no questions are like poison to conversation: try “What was the most interesting thing that happened at school today?” and “Why?” rather than:  “Did you have a good day at school?”   
  • listening. Active listening means not interrupting or judging, but digging into their ideas. Sounds easy until your child tells they should only have to go to school three days a week. 
  • sharing your own thoughts on a subject.
  • respecting different opinions, especially from our kids, can be difficult but if you want them to keep talking, it’s very, very necessary.


  • Make it a habit. Bring back the traditional family dinner, have the conversation topics ready in the car when you pick up the kids from school or when you’re getting ready for bed… whatever works. Just make it a part of your routine. 

Big conversation starters for you and your kids.

In our house, health and fitness are big topics. It’s not just MyFirstGym: Dan and I know that how we approach our health underpins everything else in our lives. Exercise makes you feel good and gives you confidence, and that’s something we want to connect with our kids about. These kinds of questions are becoming de rigeur in our family conversations: “What’s your favourite drill/exercise at MyFirstGym?” or “If you could compete in any Olympic event, which one would it be?”  

There are so many conversation starter lists out there and I’ve included a few of my favourites below. A great way to start is to use those open-ended questions to find out how their day went.

  1. If you could make up a holiday, what would you call it, and what would it celebrate?
  2. Would you rather hop like a kangaroo or run like an ostrich? 
  3. What was the best food one of your friends brought for lunch at school? 
  4. What is the hardest exercise for you to do? 
  5. Do you think it’s more important to make a lot of money or to be happy at work? 
  6. When do you feel the most loved? 
  7. Is it better to be strong or fast?
  8. What are the best pizza toppings ever? 
  9. What was the best party you ever went to? What made it fun?
  10. Who is your favourite sportsperson and why?

There’s so much to parenting, but like those mums at the school gate, supporting each other to be the best parents we can be is a huge help. If you’re struggling to keep on top of your child’s sports (or lack thereof) check out your nearest MyFirstGym. We make fitness fun, affordable and easy.


Also see our School Holiday tips and ideas visit our Ultimate Budget Friendly Holiday Guide