Why and how to have 1:1s with your kids

Patterns is a weekly idea or story for people who don’t want to hate Mondays.


Today my son told me he wants to find a job where he can travel the world and work with animals. It didn’t come out until almost right at the end of our 20-minute conversation. And it came because I shared a story about one of my first jobs.

It was inspiring to see him take the next 2 hours to start putting ideas down in the research document we started together. Nothing is more motivating than ideas we grow ourselves. Often those ideas need help to seed and grow.

Enter the 1:1. This is part of the power in creating space for conversation.

1:1 conversations are important at work. Even more important, and sometimes more difficult, in family relationships. Kids specifically can benefit from having solid 1:1s.

You can make these conversations meaningful by making them a priority, having a ping-pong of conversation, and being vulnerable.

I make it a priority by taking time, usually on a Sunday, to ask my kids if we can have a short interview. I put my phone on silent and focus completely on them. I bring a notebook and take notes about what they share.

Ping-pong in conversation happens when you listen and respond. This can be tricky with some kids who aren’t as conversational and certain ages when kids aren’t as open. I’ve found that probing with the right questions, sharing the right stories, and shutting up at the right times so you can just listen are all helpful.

Being vulnerable is key to getting kids to open up. I love sharing my past challenges with my kids so they can relate, they know I’m an imperfect human being, and I can get them to laugh.

Some questions I find helpful:

  • How are you feeling?

  • What have you been thinking about lately?

  • What are you excited about?

  • What are you worried about?

  • What can I do to be encouraging and helpful?

Depending on the age and temperament of your kids, it may help to prompt some ideas of what to say.

Especially as some of my kids get older, I see increasing value in taking time for these conversations. And having these talks reinforces my ability to use the same skill at work (and visa-versa).

How do you make 1:1s meaningful with your kids (or spouse, siblings, employees, etc. if you don’t have kids)?

p.s. If you haven’t already, check out Career Conversations. We approved the first card printing this past week.