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March 16, 2014

CEPEDA: How to get your kids to talk to you

CHICAGO — Talking to your kids can be hard. Really hard. Even children who never stop rattling off every imaginable detail about their favorite cartoon become completely unresponsive when asked “How was your day?” “What did you learn at school?” or “What’s new?”

“I don’t like being asked about what’s new,” my 12-year-old son declared at breakfast the other day.

Well, at least that was seven more words than I usually get. My inquiries seem to have the exact same one-word answer day in and day out: “Fine.” Or “Nothing.”

Coming as no surprise to anyone who’s been to a family restaurant in the last year, a new study in the journal Pediatrics confirmed that families increasingly go out for meals together and then ignore each other for iPads, iPhones, portable video games and whatever else passes the time while mom and dad check email or surf the Internet.

Researchers observed 55 adults eating with one or more young children in fast-food restaurants in a single metropolitan area. They then identified common patterns of device use.

Forty used their mobile devices during meals and demonstrated varying degrees of absorption with their phones rather than with their children. The kids reacted by either entertaining themselves or escalating their ploys for attention. Researchers noted that highly absorbed adults often responded harshly to child misbehavior.

Who knows whether these people are just clueless jerks or simply ran up against the brick wall of “Nothing” and the old standby “Idunno” too many times and gave up?

Either way, you don’t need to be a social scientist familiar with the latest research on the impact that parent-child interactions have on vocabulary, impulse control and interpersonal relations to know that this is not a good thing.

But how do you get your kids — especially teens — to talk?

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