I often hear people saying, " I ask my kids how their day was, or what they learned in school and all I get is a shrug of the shoulders and a " I don't know." I think it's very helpful to realize that right after school, many kids are tired. Emotionally tired from interacting with others all day, physically tired from thinking and playing all day, and just plain tired! Kids do want to tell us about their lives; just come into Kindergarten for an hour and count how many times a child wants to tell me a story about something going on in his or her life.
I think that having regular modes of fun communication with your child can help bridge this gap between what you want to know and what they tell you! Here are some ideas to make communicating and connecting with your child fun and meaningful.
- Interactive Journal: If you are a teacher, you can probably talk about the wonderful benefits to literacy when kids write to you in an interactive journal. At home parents and kids can write in a journal as a way of connecting without talking aloud. You could draw a picture, doodle a message, tell a funny joke, or ask a fun question like, " What was one exciting or interesting thing that happened today?" Your child will have a chance to respond to you, ( without you reading over his/her shoulder) with a written answer, a picture, or simply a question back to you. The goal is to continue a conversation, and the conversation is about your child's world. It's not a place to correct spelling, but a place to celebrate the wonderful relationship you have with this amazing thoughtful young person.
- Model the Way: Model how to share important events of the day by sharing with your spouse or another adult in your child's presence. Many times we don't talk about ourselves with other adults in front of our children because we think they are too young or aren't interested in our stories. Of course it is important to share stories that are appropriate, but the key is that if you want kids to learn to share, you must model the way :-)
- Magic Message: Kids love magic and fun! At the beach, write a message to your child in the sand. Let him answer and then continue the conversation. At home, write a message with kid shower gel/foam on the bathtub wall. Kids love to write in shaving cream, supervised of course!
- Family Gratitude Board: Hang a dry erase or bulletin board where everyone will see it at some point each day. It could be a small board in the laundry room, kitchen, even bathroom! Each member of the family writes about something they appreciate about someone in the family. Parents can model their appreciation for each other as well to show children that sometimes people can have a conflict, but still appreciate and thank each other. Let each child choose his color to write with. The key is: be consistent and demonstrate the power of gratitude. Many studies prove that expressing gratitude makes people experience well-being.
- Surprise them with Sticky Notes: Kids of all ages enjoy notes cheering them on or supporting them through a new challenge. Help your child take on a new challenge by celebrating their little wins. Communicate that you are so thankful to have them in your family. Writing is a powerful way of communicating that leaves something behind for the child to read, again and again. Give them sticky notes to write their own for you :-)
- There are many ways to connect and build a trusting relationship with your child. Stay tuned for more in our next episode!