Great communication begins with connection. Dinner time is the perfect time to connect as a family and have a meaningful conversation with your kids. When it is done right there is potential to create a powerful habit of engaging and emotional reflection without kids realizing (and being resistant) to this type of dialogue. The key is to make it natural and start early to build a foundation for communication for the teen years and beyond!
Here are some simple conversation starters to do each night with your kids. Essentially 4 basic questions to ask and the hidden reason for asking them.
Question #1: What was your special; ie library, PE, art, music?
It is the fluffy, ice breaker question. Young kids can always remember this answer and it is an easy way to get the conversational juices flowing. Kids typically love their specials so they are open to questions about the specific details. Also, a great primer question if you want to then ask about the math test or other less interesting (in their minds) topics.
Question #2: What was your absolute favorite part of your day, and why?
This question is meant to help develop an attitude of gratitude and a positive mindset. It is important to get kids in the habit of looking on the bright side of life, and in looking for all the ways their day went “right.” The answer to this question easily opens the door for you to point out additional examples of how fortunate and joyous their life truly is.
Question #3: What was your least favorite part of your day, and why?
This question oddly enough may become (in time) your favorite. It usually gleans great insight to an unexpected occurrence or confusing part of the child’s day. It can be a social or emotional struggle that happened, or it could be that the child doesn’t have “a least favorite part” that day. Every answer is a good answer in our opinion to this question because it can be a real resilience creator. There is so much potential with this question alone but you have to be prepared for the child’s honest response. Remember, it is ok for kids to experience challenges and strong emotions. They will be better off for it. It is also good for kids to know that days are not all “good” or all “bad” but a combination of ups and downs (just like life).
Question #4: What did you do to make the world a better place?
This question brings back the fun and hopeful side of the conversation, which is sometimes needed. At first glance this question appears a bit of a stretch. But, is it really? Explain to your kids that improving the world is as simple as giving someone a smile or picking up trash they see lying around. Once the question is a habit, they will know it is coming so (hopefully) they will do something to get ready for it. It is important to instill the concept that they ARE change makers even at this a young age.
And remember no matter what questions you are asking, be present and really listen to their answers. It is so easy to get distracted by life (or getting someone more milk) and not really listening to their answers. Think about how nice it feels to have someone give you their undivided attention. Connecting with your kids is a gift that will build a lifetime of communication.
About Us: We are two moms and educators on a mission to give kids the social and emotional skills that they need to thrive. Studies show that the more social and emotional tools available to kids at an early age the more confident, happy and resilient they will be later in life. We created Wonder Crate, a toolkit that delivers these tools directly to the home to make your job easier. Each Wonder Crate comes with an activity for connection and conversation cards to start the dialogue. Our June box, “I Can Change the World: A Kindness Box” is full of activities your child can do to make a difference (and help them answer #4).