Sunday, 2 December 2012

We need to talk

"My kid just won't tell me what's going on.."

It's a common complaint of parents to children of all ages today. 

"How was school?"
"What did you do?"

Sometimes that's frustrating. Sometimes that's worrying. Sometimes it's hurtful. Nonetheless, mums and dads everywhere will keep asking those same questions hoping, one day, for a bit of insight.

My kids are really good sharers which I'm sure doesn't surprise you given that their mum IS a blogger and I can't help thinking of an apple tree somewhere. There are other reasons that they share their stories so freely though. We are invested in communication in this family. Good, old-fashioned talking. We do a lot of it. In fact, we have to tell our youngest to STOP talking regularly. 

5 things that we do to encourage sharing are...

1. Dinner time is family time
We eat together as a family almost every night. Phones, iPods, iPads, tv etc are not allowed at the dinner table and the kids are used to chatting. The location is not important either. Our usual dining table, outside under a tree, at a restaurant or fish and chips at the beach. It's the ritual of sharing at dinner time that is important to all of us and very rarely missed. It usually starts with a comment about dinner [loving it or hating it - doesn't matter] and then one of them will ask "Who's starting?". 

2. Highlights and Lovelights
We all get a turn at starting 'highlights' and this is when we share the best parts of our days with each other. We do it every night and if we have guests at our dinner table, we invite them to share too. If I was to be honest, the highlight of my every day is probably hearing 'highlights' at the dinner table - but I'm not allowed to say that. I have to come up with something good that made me happy during that day. Somedays it's hard for all of us but we never let anyone get away with not having at least one highlight. Just recently I added an extra little thing which was everyone to share one thing that happened in their day to make them feel loved or cared for, which the boys have called 'Lovelights'. The kids worked this one out really quickly and are coming up with some really warming moments in their day such as "I felt loved when Mum sat with me on the couch and watched tv with me" and "I felt cared for when my teacher put a bandaid on my knee". 

3. Drive time is chat time
Any time in the car is a perfect opportunity to chat because your audience is captive. We don't do headphones and we don't do movies in the car, even on long road trips. We learn so much about the boys here. Just yesterday while I was driving with my 7 year old I discovered that he's already thinking about the logistics of getting his licence and how he can save up to buy his own car. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation and it gave me great insight into his thought processes.

4. Bedtime is story time
Most nights we are both home to put the kids to bed. Almost always on time and almost always with enough time for a family story. My boys share a room so we can all be in there together to read the story. They get to choose a different book each night and we all take turns to read. Even the little one has a go now too. After stories it's time for the goodnight kisses and a quick reminder of what's on the next day. Sometimes this is when I hear about something they HAVE to bring in to school the next day that I have to pull out of nowhere. Little Stefan often asks me "What do I have to look forward to tomorrow Mum?"

5. Many hands make light work
Wherever and whenever we can, we share the chore workload with the kids. Which means we're weeding together, washing the car together, stacking the dishwasher together, doing the laundry together, washing the windows together and planting the garden together. In my experience this is the best time to learn about something that may be bothering my oldest particularly. I find that if he's distracted I can take the questioning and conversations to places he would not usually feel comfortable with in the 'spotlight' of a one-to-one talk.

The foundation of solid family communication is essential for so many reasons. Harmony. Togetherness. Longevity. Respect. Understanding. 

If you are having trouble getting your kids to open up to you, try any one of my 5 tips. It doesn't matter which one/s you can do. If you're not able to eat as a family at night then come together at bedtime. If that's no good and you're flat out ferrying them from school to care to sports then use the car trips. If you're not already getting your kids to help out at home then pick a task you can share and start there.

The truth is they're all easy and I'm sure that even doing one of them regularly will result in a positive change.


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