I found out some news today from my little girl’s best friends mom (did you follow that!?) Apparently my cute precious little first grade daughter has a BOYFRIEND. And this isn’t just any boyfriend. According to my source, (my friends 1st grade daughter) she holds hands with this boy and instead of playing with her friends at recess, she is sitting and watching him play basketball…. are you kidding me???? I know it’s always been “cute” when young children have a “boyfriend” or a “girlfriend” but this doesn’t feel so cute to me. So here are my problems in order from why I am concerned:
3. How does she even think a “girlfriend” should sit and watch a boy play basketball? At least play with him for crying out loud!
2. I don’t know how many of you had this type of relationship in first grade but how many of you actually held hands with your “significant other”? Not very many people I know. I’m not sure where she learned that this was okay.
1. The biggest and number one problem that I am having is that she has not told me about this boy. It must be a pretty big thing in her life right now but she has not said one word to me about it.
So now I need to figure out the right way to bring this up and start a conversation with her without causing her to feel like I am angry with her choice. I am actually more upset with myself that I have not been asking the right questions about school to have already figured this out on my own. My daughter is the only school age child I have this year and I feel like I spend a good amount of time talking to her when she comes home about school. BUT as I have been thinking about it, I really don’t talk to her much about her friends and what she does with them. I am so focused on her spelling, reading, and math that I just forget about the other things.
But when it comes down to it, what really matters? She will eventually be able to read great, do math, and spell just fine. Those are all the things she really doesn’t have a choice to do while at school. So what about the times when she IS in control of her choices? The lunch room, the playground, any free time they have. During those times is when she can make her own choices about what she does, who she plays with, and how she treats others. I have neglected talking to her and focusing on THOSE important times. Those are the times that are going to shape who she grows into as a person. They are some of the most important choices that these young children have in their lives.
So how do we start these conversations with our kids and actually get them to talk to us about it? It can be hard. They don’t want to come home everyday and rehash everything they did with their mom or dad. So here are some things that I have learned.
How Was Your Day?
How many of us ask our kids, “How was your day today?” I know that is usually how I start of the conversation with my daughter. But Michael Thompson, Ph.D., author of “The Pressured Child” said “Parents never get the answer they want and often don’t understand how difficult this question really is. Without meaning to, parents are asking for a summary but kids don’t summarize the way adults do. So most kids just say ‘fine’ or try to avoid the question entirely.” (You can find this article here)
When my husband comes home from work I can ask him, “how was your day?” and he will go on and on about his day and all the little things that happened to him. (Yes, he is a talker!) But when you ask a child this question they have not learned to summarize their day like we do and they have a hard time communicating that.
So as we are getting ready for them to come running through the door or jumping into the car we need to think about what the point of talking with our kids is. What is our role as the adult and what are our goals for these conversations?
Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College said, “More than just finding out how their day was, we want to help kids become problems solvers and independent learners. Good conversations help kids see we care about their lives, that we are there to support them, and to help them develop strategies for solving problems themselves.”
When you think about your conversations with your kids after school, do you feel like they are learning these things? I know this is such an eye opener for me. I know I want my daughter to feel my love for her and feel like I care about her day, but I never even thought about what she is learning during our talks. I can actually teach her some of the most important skills she will need as an adult like solving problems and learning on her own during the talks we have IF I just put a little bit of effort and thought into the conversation! How easy and amazing!
So what are some ways we can make the most of our conversations? Here are four tips I found that I loved.
1. Ask open-ended questions. Surely, “How was school today?” does not bring about the most conversation. For many young children it is too vague and they need a more specific question to help them remember their day. Avoid questions that can be answered in one word especially “yes” or “no.” Rather try some open-ended questions like, “Tell me about the game you played at recess today” or “That’s a beautiful picture of the farm. Tell me about it.” or “I wonder what you had for lunch today.”
2. Know their school schedule so you can start talking about library day, gym or art class. “What kind of books did the librarian show you today?” or “What did you find at the library?” “Tell me about the books that you chose.” Take the time to sit down and read the books with her, affirming her choice, and encouraging reading.
3. Model sharing about your day. “I had a great day today. I talked to grandma and grandpa about…” or “I met a new friend and we had coffee at the beach.” It is important to share your interests, friends, challenges and joys with your kids so they see that communication modeled for them. There is nothing quite so rewarding as when my grown sons say to me, “How was your day today, Mom?”
4. Listen, listen, and listen. Once your child gets started talking about her day, hold off more questions and let her go. As parents, we tend to jump in with more questions, but pausing is important. A child gains confidence as she relates her day and you affirm her.
You can check out these plus five more awesome tips here.
And if you want more awesome conversation starters, my favorite list that I found had 25 of the funnest questions to get kids sharing their feelings and thoughts. Some of my favorites were If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed up someone who would you want them to take? And If you got to be the teacher tomorrow what would you do? You can find the rest of the list here.
So now that I am a total pro 🙂 at talking to my daughter about school, it is almost time to go pick her up and get her talking about this “boyfriend” of hers! I know that there will always be things that our kids won’t willingly tell us. I am not naive enough to think that she will just be spilling everything out to me for the rest of her life. But if we don’t start teaching them to talk to us while they are young, it will only get harder and harder…and that is NOT okay with me. Wish me luck!