I think most parents’ value when their kids will share information with them, such as what they find important and what they desire. I know I do. But there was a period of time when my children weren’t interested in sharing themselves with me, or even talking about the time of day. For the most part, this was when they were in middle school and high school.
Many parents I’ve spoken with share my experience of eagerly awaiting picking up our child from school or having them walk through the door and share with us what they experienced that day. After all, we have missed them and haven’t seen them for hours. Much of the time the first thing that comes out of our mouths is “ What did you do today?” or “How was your day?” The first question is met with the response “nothing” and the second one with “fine.” These one-word responses can feel like a dead-end as they aren’t usually said with much enthusiasm. There were times I took these responses personally and most days I kept asking the same questions that I should have known wouldn’t get me the responses I was hoping for.
I finally decided to be more creative in how I approached our after school connection. I could see that my kids were tired after their long day, and my first step was to allow them the time and space to unwind. Kids of all ages need this. I did ask them about their day so they would know I was interested, but held no expectation of a certain response. Then the pressure was off them and me.
When the timing felt more relaxed I asked them questions that didn’t just require a simple yes or no answer. If I knew they had a test or project due, I asked in a way that would hopefully be conversation worthy. For example: “What was the hardest part of your math test today?” Sometimes to get them into sharing mode I asked a non-school related question such as “What are you looking forward to this week-end?” In later years, my kids shared with me that after being in school all day, the last thing they wanted to talk about was school. Wish I had known sooner.
We are child focused in our relationships and conversations with our kids. When my kids were younger, it didn’t occur to me that they might want to hear about my day or what I was up to. My intent was to focus on them.
One day when my son was in a complaining state of mind and felt the need to vent, he seemed to have a revelation that didn’t seem to please him. He informed me that he didn’t understand why I never shared what I was going through or had recently experienced. I was taken aback, as I never would have guessed he had noticed. I told him that I hadn’t realized that it was important to him that I share.
Those few minutes of conversation between us helped me realize that it’s important for our children to know who we are and what we care about outside of them. It’s our job to share ourselves, in part so they learn to share themselves as well. From that day forward I did just that. I didn’t overburden them with too many details and deeply personal information that didn’t concern them, but I did tell them about my interests, activities and what I was learning in my everyday experiences with life.
As my children matured and felt safe sharing their stories because I shared mine, they eventually started asking me about my day or how I felt about a given subject.
In summary what I did was this, in fostering sharing with my kids!
1) Encouraged them to de-stress after school, have alone time if needed.
2) Asked about their day, not being attached to any particular response.
3) At a more relaxed time, asked school and non-school related questions.
4) I listened and heard at my heart level what my children were telling me.
5) I made a decision to share myself, and experiences with my children.
We inspire our kids by how we relate to them and the world. It’s possible to create any relationship we want to have with them by being whom we want to inspire them to be.
What experiences have you had with talking to your kids after school?
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.