School is back in full swing!
Our kiddos are doing their best to manage early mornings and adjust to new teachers, social pressures, extracurricular activities, and homework! It's a lot to handle!
All of these changes often lead to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
So, how can we be there for them?
The answer is to talk through these changes with them, not at them.
Let me explain.
As parents, much of our day is spent directing, guiding, and managing our kids. We make sure they brush their teeth, eat breakfast, tidy up their rooms, and complete their homework – it's part of our "job" to keep things running smoothly.
However, this sometimes leaves little space for genuine conversation and honest communication. Over time, this approach can inadvertently close our kids off. It can make them feel like their voices aren't heard, or their thoughts aren't valued.
And nobody wants that!
So, let's make a few shifts in our approach to encourage open and meaningful dialogue.
Create a safe space:
Before our kids open up to us, they must trust us. They need to trust that we are safe (they can tell us anything, and we won't freak out) and that we are a reliable sounding board (we listen to understand, not to respond, and we listen without judgment). Keep this in mind when considering the next few tips.
Step into their world:
The best way to connect with my kids is by stepping into their world. It's all about wholeheartedly exploring their passions, whether sports, video games, music, or history. Doing this has opened up amazing conversations and given me a glimpse into how my boys think and feel.
This involves paying close attention to what gets them excited, what they talk about with their friends, where they like to hang out, and what makes them light up with joy.
You can start to explore their world with them by using open-ended questions.
Instead of asking them yes-or-no questions, try diving into conversations with questions that start with Who, What, Where, When, How.
Like, "What's the coolest thing about playing_____________?"
Or, "Who's your absolute favorite teammate?" "What does he do that makes him a great teammate?"
"You know, I came across this (super interesting fact) about (favorite subject); what other cool stuff have you come across?
Another way to open up a dialogue with your kiddos is to use creative ways to check in with them.
I used to pick up my boys from school and ask the classic, "How was your day?" All I got was the same old "Fine," a shrug, or even dead silence!
And then, I'd follow up with the ever-thrilling, "Got any homework?"
Both of these questions killed any chance of having a conversation. My boys were usually exhausted from a long school day and were in no mood to answer more questions.
What worked better was greeting them, letting them know I was excited to see them, and then giving them space to decompress. Sometimes, they wanted to blast music; other times, they just needed a quiet ride home, and once in a blue moon, they had a tale to tell about their day. The more space I gave them, the more they opened up.
A more productive time to check in was during dinnertime or bedtime. These were awesome moments to catch up with them. Instead of the usual humdrum questions, I started getting creative and asked things like:
High-Low Method: Tell me, what was the absolute highlight (the best part) and the biggest challenge (the toughest part) of your day? It allowed them to reflect on their day, both good and bad.
Rose, Thorn, and Bud Method: I'd prompt them to share their "rose" (the most awesome thing or the coolest part of their day), their "thorn" (the trickiest or most challenging thing they faced), and their "bud" (what they were looking forward to). This approach always sparked optimism and got them thinking ahead.
Nowadays, you can find tons of ideas online for asking about their day creatively. Here are a few I like: What made you laugh? Who did you hang out with? What new or surprising thing did you learn today?
As we explore creative ways to engage our children in conversation, remember that the foundation is set by creating a safe space, entering their world, and choosing "good" moments to connect. This builds trust and strengthens the bond between you and your kiddo. As your bond grows, the topics of conversation will, too. The more you give them a reason to trust you, the more they will share.
All meaningful conversations take time to develop. If your child is on the quieter side, don't be disheartened. Keep nurturing that trust, and the conversations will flow more freely over time.
If you're looking for a supportive community of like-minded parents who understand the ups and downs of parenting, I invite you to consider joining our parenting groups. Registration is now open, and it's an excellent opportunity to connect, share, and learn together. We're here to support each other on this incredible journey of parenthood. Find out more by clicking on the group that interests you: Mom's Group / Couple's Group.
Here's to helping our kiddos manage school challenges with more open conversations in the coming weeks!