Good communication is important in all aspects of my life, but nowhere more so than in parenting. Developing relationships with my children in which we communicate openly is my hill to die on. I mean, what else would you expect from a lesbian mom-blogger with a psych degree?? #mykidsaresoscrewed
My actions don’t always fit my goals (we are perpetually running late for something and 5 minutes of listening to my kid yammer on about Lego Chima is about 4 minutes too many) but I really do try. To help me on my quest, I’ve come up with a set of questions that I ask my children nearly every day, usually around the dinner table or in the car (same thing, right?). These questions seem to really get to the heart of it and spur meaningful dialogue that gives me an insight into their thoughts and feelings.
1. What was the best part of your day?
My favorite. What makes you feel joy? What makes your heart sing? As all parents know, I receive happiness through the happiness of my children and every day when I drive home from work, I look forward to the answer to this question. I love knowing exactly what made my child smile the biggest that day. I especially love it when they answer, “When you came home!” (even if they are just working me over for a piece of chocolate…)
2. Anything about your day you wish you could have changed?
I want my children to know that they don’t just have to tell me about the good stuff. They can also share with me the sad, mad, frustrating, annoying, boring, and other parts of their day as well. Then, depending on the answer, (“I wish it didn’t rain so we could go outside for recess”) I can either simply validate those feelings (“Yeah, I prefer sunny days, too”) or we can talk about how actions could have changed that not-so-pleasant part of the day (“Big bummer about getting in trouble for talking. Do you think you’ll do anything differently tomorrow?”).
3. Who did you play with today?
One tip I’ve consistently gotten from BTDT (been there done that) moms is to know who my children are hanging out with. Truth be told, I’m not all that concerned about what kind of crew my 4 year old is running with in preschool, but kids grow up quick. We are rapidly approaching middle school with my oldest and I already see what an impact his circle of friends has on him. Peers will quickly be a bigger influence in his life than I am so I need to put on my detective mom hat now to make sure they are learning how to pick the right circle.
4. Do you have any questions (about anything)?
Dangerous question, but as long as you are okay talking about butts and penises at the dinner table, it’s a really important one. I want to be my child’s primary source of information on the big stuff (okay, not long division or WWII history, but you know what I mean) so I make sure to repeat the message over and over again that they can ask me anything about anything. Sometimes it’s questions about friends, family, science (we’ll look it up…), Santa, bodies, civil rights, politics…I can’t even begin to list all the random questions that my crazy trio has managed to think up, but all I care about is the fact that they are asking and that they are asking ME.
Some days they get sick of my questioning. Answers are no more than a handful of words and an eye roll. But, I hope to never stop asking because on the day they have something big to share, they will know they have the opportunity and an interested listener.