The other day I was sitting at the park with my kids, and a mother who had just picked her children up from school strolled by. I overheard a conversation that I hear so frequently….
Mother: “What did you learn at school today?”
Mother: “Really, you did nothing all day?”
Not exactly the kind of engaged and connected response we as parent are looking for, is it? Having conversations with our children that help them reflect on their day is super important and healthy for helping our children develop valuable skills like self-reflection, self-regulation, emotional health, and connection in their relationships. But if we can’t get more than one-word responses, how much is the conversation really helping them? The answer is: not really that much.
Changing up the way we ask these questions and connect with our children makes all the difference. Asking questions that are open-ended, being physically and emotionally available to listen and connect, and modeling how to reflect are all ways that we can encourage healthy conversation and connection at the end of each day.
Consider when you’re having these conversations. It doesn’t always have to be right before you fall asleep or right after the school day has ended. Family dinner time, bath time, snuggling while reading a story, on an evening walk… these are all great opportunities to slow down and ask your child some questions about their day.
If your child isn’t much of a talker or you haven’t made an effort to try this in the past, model to them what it’s like to reflect on your own day. Share your thoughts and feelings from the day, and don’t feel like you have to only focus on the positive. Studies show that by discussing our negative feelings and experiences with our children help them better cope when they are inevitably dealing with similar feelings in their lives. After you’ve shared your feelings and thoughts from the day, your child might be more inclined to share theirs!
Make sure your questions are open-ended. One of the quickest ways to shut down a connection conversation is to ask a question that can be answered with a one-word response. Instead, think of questions that you can ask your child that allow them to reflect, share feelings over actions, and get excited to talk to you. Here are some examples (with a handy infographic you can share on your social media to remind you and others of helpful ways to connect with your child):
“What was your favorite part of the day?”
“What made you feel proud of yourself today?”
“If you could redo something today, what would it be?”
“Who made you feel happy today?”
“Did anything make you feel sad today?”
“What inspired you today?”
“What questions did you not get answers to today?”
“How can I help you tonight?”
“What are you most excited about tomorrow?”
You don’t have to ask ALL of these every night, of course. Start with one or two questions, and vary the ones you ask each day to keep things fresh and new.
If you feel like you need some more support in creating a connected home and family, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of my 30 Days of Connection Journal! And right now, during the Annual Curriculum Sale, everything on the site is 20% off, so it’s a great time to grab that journal (and other resources!).
How do you connect with your children each day and encourage reflection and engagement?