5 tips for helping quiet kids open up
Cricket. Cricket. Cricket. This is the sound that emanates from a room filled with quiet kids. Fortunately, it’s not often that you’ll have a room made up entirely of kids who are “vocally challenged.” Quiet kids are often deep thinkers with quiet spirits. That’s not a bad thing at all! Nevertheless, it’s important that you create a safe environment where (with a little bit of encouragement) they’ll be willing to share their thoughts and feelings with others. This gives them the opportunity to voice their struggles, challenges, fears, hopes and dreams. You never want to force a kid to share, so here are a few tips that will help encourage them to share. Engage them outside of service. Some kids need to know and trust you before they’re willing to open up in a group. Take some time during drop-off or pick-up time to talk one-on-one with your quiet kids. As they become more comfortable with you, they’ll be more likely to share during group time.
Seat the kids in a circle. When kids are seated in a clump rather than a circle, it’s easy for kids with less inclination for sharing to hide or get lost in the back of the cluster.
Call on quiet kids directly. Sometimes quiet kids need to feel invited into a conversation. When you call on a kid directly, it communicates that you want them to be a part of the group and that you’re interested in what they have to say. You could say something like, "What do you think about that?" If they don't have anything to say, that's okay! Just say, "Keep thinking about it and let me know if you want to share," then move on.
Be okay with silence. It might take some kids a moment to put words to their thoughts. That’s okay! Don’t feel the need to “rescue” them too quickly. If they can’t or don’t want to join the conversation just yet, that’s okay too. But don’t let that be the last time you call on them.
Affirm them after sharing. For some kids, sharing aloud in a group is a huge emotional and social risk. If you affirm them after sharing, it greatly increases the chance they’ll share again. A simple, “Wow! I love the way you think!” or “Great answer—thanks for sharing!” will often do the trick.