June 22, 2011 in Features

Offbeat questions can start dialogue

Washington Post

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On making conversation with monosyllabic teenagers:

When my boys were in high school, it did no good to ask how their day had been, so I tried the following questions: What was the craziest thing you saw in the lunchroom/hall/bus? What was the funniest thing that happened today? Who asked the stupidest question in (name a class)? Why was it stupid? How did the teacher respond? How would you have responded differently? Which teacher did you disagree with the most today? Why?

Then, listen, and ask follow-up questions to expand on their ideas and opinions. Your opinions are not important. Attentive, nonjudgmental listening, the same kind you give your adult friends, can lead to understanding and further confidences. And some of the stories are really funny! – Miss those days

On refusing to be a military spouse:

My friends loved the military, but their girlfriends/fiancees/wives viewed the biannual moves and overseas deployments as being too much. My friends quit the military and went corporate. Their partners were overjoyed. What happened?

They moved every two to three years. There were moves overseas where the woman was responsible for the household, children, school, and integrating into a non-English-speaking culture. Their now-husbands traveled constantly and they were home every four days to every three weeks. There is a saying, “God has jokes.” – V.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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