This article was orginally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.

When your child couldn't communicate, you thought your life would be so much easier when they finally could. Except, maybe it wasn't. Just because your child" can talk doesn't mean they want to communicate. Want your children to open up about tough topics? Start with the not-so-important topics. When they know you'll listen to them talk about their love of comics or dance without judgment, they are more likely to tell you about their hopes and fears. There are multiple times each day to talk to your kids: around the dinner table, as part of the bedtime routines or in the car.

We believe that communication should be fun. We found that kids respond well when "communication" feels more like a game and less like an obligation. Here are 3 of our favorite ways to make communication more fun.

1. Make it silly

Children have a talent for seeing humor in situations. Using humor or getting your child to laugh magically helps break down walls and barriers, which makes whatever is being discussed a lot less scary.

Teachers know this secret well. Remember how your teacher made reading or science more fun by acting silly? Maybe they used crazy voices, dressed up in costume or exaggerated everything they did. And you loved it.

Apply that same principle to your child. Use a crazy, silly voice. My sister has a witches cackle that her kids love when she uses it. Sing a song-especially if you're terrible at it. Pull out puppets or paper dolls. Tell bad jokes. The options are endless to what you can do to make it silly. Your child may roll their eyes, but secretly they love it.

2. Turn the tables

Allow your children to do the asking. When your child sees you opening up and answering questions, it creates a space where they are more willing to do the same. Let your child know that nothing is off-limits-embarrassing moments, mistakes, triumphs, dreams-they're all fair game.

My 5-year-old nephew loves nothing more than asking silly questions to his mom, dad, sister, aunts, uncles, and, of course, his grandparents. Because we can't say the same thing as everybody else, we've gotten creative in our answers. He loves it, and we love that we make him smile and laugh.

3.Turn it into a game

Games are a wonderful way to communicate because they're non-threatening, and your child feels safe. In this way, you'll probably get more honest answers.

There are lots of different communication-type games to fit every age group and personality.

Some that we love are:

  • Would You Rather and Get to Know You-type questions because you can play them anywhere. Think in the car, at the dinner table, getting ready for bed, waiting in line or on a walk. They take very little preparation. There are multiple sites that have questions ready for download. You can even pull them up on your phone.

  • Personality quiz or questionnaires may be the answer for an introverted child as it allows him to answer without feeling like he's being put on the spot.

  • Having to answer as many questions about themselves in a set amount of time. Teenagers especially love this one.

  • Create a song. Have your child create a song on a specific topic you want to know more about or on something they're thinking about.

The possibilities to make communication more fun are endless. You know your children best and know what specifics will work with them. Just remember, it doesn't really matter how you're communicating - only that you are. You'll be amazed at how much opening the lines of communication improve family life.

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