Last week I shared a personal story with you about an explosion I had with my mom. For weeks when I asked her how she was doing, she didn’t say much but “okay,” when in reality – she wasn’t. She was very sick and internally needing my warmth, care, and connection. But how could I have known?
This ordeal, in my own life, inspired me to write this article so you would know how to encourage your children to share their daily lives with you. Open up, speak about their feelings, and not to be afraid to nurture their existential need for connection.
Kids do as we do, not as we say. I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before – but did you internalize it? I work with so many parents who complain about their kids not telling them anything; they have often convinced themselves that this is who their child is, and there’s nothing they could do about it. But it doesn’t help their frustration – not at all.
The thing is that when I ask them how often do they share with their kids – they’re not even sure what sharing is and what it looks like.
If you want to raise a child who talks to you, shares with you and lets you in on his life experience – you have to do the same. “How was your day at school”? is not enough.
So What Do I Do?
Each day when I pick Ilay up, I begin by telling him how my day was. And I tell him – everything. I tell him what I did, who I spoke to, what we talked about, what happened, and how I felt during all this. By doing this I model the response I am looking for when I ask him how his day was. Following this he knows that “okay” or “fun” are not answers that would satisfy me; he learns what sharing means to me.
Note that if you just begin now – this change won’t take effect within a single day. Communication skills and our roles as conversation partners are life-lessons that take a while to learn and internalize. Still, the sooner you’ll start – the faster you will see your child becoming a real partner in this daily conversation.
Did you notice how you only remember some of the things that happened to you during the day, while others seem to escape you completely? Or how, looking back – you only remember “the best” or “the worst” moments of your life? This is due to the fact that our memories comprise of emotions, rather than events. We remember peaks of emotions, what made us sad or happy, scared, or confused. Our memory is based on emotions. This is only one of the reasons for which teaching emotions and feelings to children is crucial for their development – it helps them organize their lives, teaches them what is desired in their lives and what isn’t, and how to act upon their needs.
So What Do I Do?
I created these needs and feelings cards for children, and I work with them every day (enter the link, print and laminate the cards to get going!). It has become a significant part of our routine – a game we all play. During dinner or even bath time, I pick out a few feelings cards (up to 5), and, together, we talk about moments during the day that felt like the emoji the card shows. We learn how to identify feelings and to talk about them – together.
Don’t Play the Investigator
How was your day? Who did you play with? What did you eat? What did you do? Did you play ball? Did you paint? Did you fight with anyone? Did you learn anything new? What was the most exciting thing that happened today?
If this one-sided conversation is a “talk” you tend to have with your child after school or kindergarten – it’s a good time to stop 🙂 Kids can’t process all that – not at the end of the day when their brains are already tired and overworked. Often when children are bombarded with questions and experience that feeling of a shut-down brain, they shut down too, lose patience, and become angry and frustrated.
What Do I Do?
I’ll be honest with you – I fight this urge to ask. I wait until after I’ve shared, I wait for a moment of connection, I wait until the need to share sparks within my son – this is the only way to promise a dialogue – and dialogues are the only conversations that work to build strong relationships and secure connections.
I remind myself and keep myself focused on the desired outcome – which is a dialogue. This means I need to be ready just to let it be when this doesn’t happen. Resentment is the last thing I want our conversations to feel like.
When we have the opportunity for profound processing and closure, “negative” daily happenings don’t leave their marks on our souls; they don’t scar us or our relationships, they don’t leave us hurting for the next day. If we fought or had a disagreement, if I said anything that I regret, if I yelled or behaved in any less desirable way – I talk about it during bedtime.
You know, no matter how hard we try – things happen. We’re not robots, nor are we machines. We say things, we sometimes yell, sometimes we fail to think or to breathe before we speak. This is part of life; there’s no reason to feel guilt or shame about it. It is what it is. But it is up to us to make amends.
I’ve written before about what I feel for apologies (hint – this is not something I practice) instead – I make amends. I acknowledge how my behavior made my son feel, I tell him why I behaved the way that I did, and I tell him how I aim to act next time something like this happens.
From this, he learns that mommy is a human being, too, and human beings sometimes end up hurting each other. This is just a fact of life. He learns how to take responsibility for his actions and how to show his remorse (which is honest and profound, unlike a forced apology). He learns how to consider the future and learns how to behave through his own experience – and not because he was told or coerced into action.
By the way – I do this with my husband, too 🙂 Or anyone else I’ve hurt.
4 Things I Do Each Day To Empower My Child To Open Up and Talk To Me
I model sharing feelings, I teach feelings, I don’t intimidate him with my expectations, and I never fear to admit to my own mistakes or misdoings. There’s nothing we can’t talk about, there’s nothing, in our house, that we can’t admit to and discuss – everything is allowed.
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Hope to meet you soon 🙂
By the way, all the links in this article lead to pretty helpful articles 🙂 If you have time to read on – I encourage you to do just that 🙂
Plus – visit my YouTube channel – there are quite a few videos here that can help you learn how to positively and beneficially communicate with your loved ones.
Here’s a little video where I explain why children just don’t care about rules, and what we can do to help them: