As the new school year approaches, parents around the country will share a similar struggle – How to get your kids to tell you about their day.
Moms and Dads are eager to learn about things their children are experiencing at school, but kids often clam up as soon as they step into the house. In an effort to extract information, parents probe deeper while their kids stick to their one word answers. Not only is this exchange frustrating to parents, but it can also cause kids to feel like they’re being put on the spot. Nobody wins in this scenario and the dreaded cycle continues.
One way that I’ve managed to change the dynamic is by having a dinner time conversation called Roses and Thorns (you can read all about it in this post – How to Improve Dinner Time Conversations with Roses and Thorns). Roses and Thorns forces each of us to reflect on our day to come up with positive and negative things that happened. We celebrate the positive things and discuss ways to improve the negative things or take action if necessary.
While we enjoy our dinner time conversations, I’ve discovered another time when my kids are more apt to really open up. Just before bedtime, my kids turn into chatterboxes. Suddenly they want to talk about their science project, or their new best friend, or the funny things that the substitute teacher did.
Although I know that this is a stall-tactic to stay up longer, I listen intently because I’m eager to get some insight into their lives. It is during these moments when my kids let down their guards and reveal things that are really important to them. I guess there is something about a dark, quiet room that removes their inhibitions.
When my daughter was in second grade, she told me about some girls who had been bullying her. Although this problem had been going on for a while, she only mentioned it one night after I read her a bedtime story about a girl who had to overcome her fears and be brave. It was at bedtime that my son revealed to me that I was being too hard on him as his little league coach. That was a night filled with tears and reconciliation. My youngest son, who is 8-years old, often uses our bedtime conversations to not only discuss his fears and disappointments, but also his hopes and dreams. Just recently, he told me about his plan to get rich so he could buy a huge house so his whole, entire family (grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles) could live together. As much as I wanted to explain to him why this probably wasn’t a good idea, I listened closely and asked him why he want to do that. He just smiled and said, “I just love my family so much.”
Because of my kids’ willingness to talk at bedtime, I’ve started to use the time to address some serious topics with my them such as violence, sexual abuse, peer pressure, and responsible alcohol usage. Talking to them about these topics right before they go to sleep gives them some time to process the information. The next day, they usually have some questions which lead to a deeper conversation.
The main benefit of our night time conversations is that they build a strong foundation of trust from an early age (a main goal of #TalkEarly). My kids know that they can talk to me about any subject and I will listen – day or night.
Finding the right time to talk to your kids can be a challenge. But experimenting with different times of day can lead to unexpected surprises. For me and my family, bedtime conversations seem to be the most productive. Just before they close their eyes, my children seem to be the most willing to open their hearts.