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At Culinary Artistas, creating connections beyond the kitchen is what we’re all about. So, we reached out to Adam Brooks, the King of connecting with kids, for tips on how to get families to communicate better, and why it’s more critical than ever.
Adam Brooks didn’t talk much about his feelings growing up—at least not with his parents.
His dad, a construction contractor, was not very communicative. And his mother, a conservative Polish Catholic, believed parenting should follow the principles of “do what I say, not as I do.” Healthy, open and frequent communication was not a thing.
While Adam struggled to find his own way as an adolescent, he eventually found his calling in teaching kids how to advocate for themselves, and teaching parents how to have effective, meaningful communication with their kids.
Now a renowned speaker and author, Adam is also the founder of Drive-a-Logue—a card set that helps you ask the best questions at every age to get your kids to open up and help navigate all the modern challenges of being a kid.
With technology exposing kids to adult topics at younger ages, bringing bullying home and skyrocketing the rate of adolescent anxiety and depression, Drive-a-Logue and Adam’s mission couldn’t come at a more critical time.
“It’s never too early to start learning how to talk with your kids and creating an environment of open communication,” Adam said. “”By engaging in brave conversations, parents can empower their kids to be self-advocates, navigate the challenges of technology, and embrace their unique selves.”
By listening and being present, Adam added, parents can create a safe and nurturing environment where kids feel comfortable expressing themselves, ultimately fostering a deeper and more fulfilling parent-child relationship.
Our team sat down with Adam to chat about what you can ask beyond, “How was your day?” and why it’s so important to do so.
Here’s How to Get Your Kids to Open Up
Q: What do you see as the most common barriers to communication between parents and kids throughout their development?
A: The biggest barrier is that parents are more involved in kids' lives than ever before, but that doesn't always equal engagement and understanding of what's going on inside them. Sometimes, parents make assumptions that their kids will just tell them if something happens. And this is a huge problem, because it prevents parents from asking harder questions or diving deeper into things. There's also an assumption that kids aren't ready for hard conversations until they're older, but in reality, most kids are exposed to adult things at younger ages now.
For elementary school kids, it's about asking introductory questions to get to know their routines, friends, and how they handle situations like someone not wanting to sit with them at lunch.
For junior high kids, the conversations should focus on situational things that happen at that age, especially considering the impact of technology and social media on their lives.
Q: What's the number one thing you’d recommend to parents trying to engage with their kids?
A: For starters, it's essential to be open to revisiting the conversation. Some kids need time to think about things and may come back a week later to talk about it. Leaving it open to be revisited can be helpful in building trust and deeper connections. Also, it's essential to be an active listener—try to be completely nonjudgmental when talking to your kids about their feelings and experiences. Just listen.
Here’s some other tips most parents don’t know:
- It takes about 10 touches on a topic to get kids comfortable and talking about hard things.
- Start with softer, easier topics and gradually move into the more difficult ones. Ask specific and targeted questions instead of general ones. If you ask too broad a question, it can be overwhelming for kids.
- Pay attention to the timing of the conversation. Choose moments when your child might be more receptive, such as during a late start in the morning or when energy levels are higher.
Q: With your card game, you focus on the time in the car. Why did you choose that instead of, say, the dinner table?
A: A kid is way less likely to feel comfortable answering a question when you’re looking them straight in the eye. The car is one example of distracting the frontal lobe to have that conversation. It's not different from listening to music and cooking or talking and cooking. The car provides a space to have additional conversations that can add more levels and dynamics to what the mission is about. That being said, dinner time is also a great opportunity to have meaningful conversations. Ultimately, it’s not the location that matters—it’s the timing.
Q: What was your relationship with your parents like? How did you communicate?
A: I remember longing to communicate. In junior high, we were driving on the freeway, and I blurted out, "I like to swear at school." I just blurted it out because I was the oldest and a people pleaser. My parents sat me down and asked what words I thought were swear words and talked about why that was. But it was all because I initiated the conversation, and I felt comfortable doing it in the back seat without eye contact.
Q: Taking a question from your card set: What’s one thing you wish your parents would've taught you?
A: That I could make my own way. I felt like I had to fit into certain molds and be what others thought I should be. Learning that those molds didn't fit me was a hard experience, but now I see my ADHD and giftedness as positive traits. The biggest tragedy of my generation is that kids who were really smart were made to believe they weren't.