You’ve been waiting in the carpool line for a while. You’re looking forward to seeing your son. You haven’t seen him all day. You’re curious about what’s been happening in his life while you’re not there. He opens the door, throws his stuff in, hops in, and buckles up. You ask hopefully, “How was your day?” Response, “Fine.” You: “What did you do today?” Son: “Nothing.” or “I don’t remember.” Disappointing, right?
How do you get your child engaged in a conversation with you where he’ll share?
One tip is to do something with him. Let him use the time in the car to relax. Then find small activities to do with him. While he’s busy doing something he’s more likely to relax and engage. For example, have him help cook a meal. Start talking about the food you’re making, mention what your favorite food is, what is his most/least favorite food? What’s his most/least favorite food in dining hall? Who does he sit with? Do they like the food? What do you guys talk about? Are they your good friends? If not, who are your friends or who would you ask to be at your table? See? Now you’ve got him talking about his friends!
You can do this with almost any activity – take a walk around the block, play a card game, shoot some hoops or play catch.
Sometimes different, open-ended questions may elicit more of a response. Here’s a list of some conversation prompts that might help:
- What made you smile today?
- Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
- Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
- Does everyone have a friend at recess?
- What was the book about that your teacher read?
- What’s the word of the week?
- Did anyone do anything silly to make you laugh?
- Did anyone cry?
- What did you do that was creative?
- What is the most popular game at recess?
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- Did you help anyone today?
- Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
- Who did you sit with at lunch?
- What made you laugh?
- Did you learn something you didn’t understand?
- Who inspired you today?
- What was the peak and the pit?
- What was your least favorite part of the day?
- Was anyone in your class gone today?
- Did you ever feel unsafe?
- What is something you heard that surprised you?
- What is something you saw that made you think?
- Who did you play with today?
- Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
- What is something that challenged you?
- How did someone fill your bucket today? Whose bucket did you fill?
- Did you like your lunch?
- Rate your day on a scale from 1-10.
- Did anyone get in trouble today?
- How were you brave today?
- What questions did you ask at school today?
- Tell us your top two things from the day (before you can be excused from the dinner table!).
- What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
- What are you reading?
- What was the hardest rule to follow today?
- Teach me something I don’t know.
- If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
- (For older kids): Do you feel prepared for your history test?” or, “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?” (In my opinion, the key is not only the way a question is phrased, but responding in a supportive way.)
- Who did you share your snacks with at lunch?
- What made your teacher smile? What made her frown?
- What kind of person were you today?
- What made you feel happy?
- What made you feel proud?
- What made you feel loved?
- Did you learn any new words today?
- What do you hope to do before school is out for the year?
- If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
- What is your least favorite part of the school building? And favorite?
- If you switched places with your teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
(list adapted from post by Leslie Means on her blog Her View From Home)
With spring break here, days getting longer and warmer, and summer just around the corner here are some simple ideas to connect with your son. Enjoy!
- Plan a meal together.
- Take a “nature walk” around your neighborhood.
- Look at the stars.
- Sleep in a tent in your backyard or in your living room.
- Sing together in the car to your favorite songs.
- Pick out some books together at the library, and read aloud to each other.
- Take him on a “date” – just you and him.
- Lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds.
- Play ball.
- Visit a museum. Let him lead the way. Talk to each other about what you see.
- Bake cookies together.
- Tell jokes.
- Row a boat or take a bike ride.
- Invite his friends over as a surprise.
- Have a dance contest.
- Take a walk in the rain. Splash in the puddles!
- Treat him the way you want to be treated.
- Walk on the beach and collect shells.
- Wash the dishes together by hand.
- Make a clubhouse together.
- Dance like crazy!
- Instead of driving to a nearby store, walk there together.
- Plan an imaginary trip.
- Write a story together.
- Turn off the car radio and all other devices in the car.
- Blow bubbles together.
- Make paper airplanes.
- Kiss and hug him.
- Plant a garden together. Let him pick some things he wants to grow.
- Go swimming.
- Clean the house together.
- Find a new recipe and make it together.
- Get up early and watch the sunrise.
- Make faces.
- Help him pick out old toys (in good condition) to donate to charity.
- Play with clay.
- Explore your neighborhood or nearby park. Let him lead the way. Bring a bag for collecting things.
- Listen to him.
- Have a lazy weekend morning where you have breakfast in bed and just laze around together.
- Tell him a story about you as a child.
- Bake a cake together. Let him decorate it any way he likes.
- Have dinner by candlelight.
- Play cards.
- Get your cameras or smartphones and go for a photo journey through your neighborhood or a park.
- Take the dog for a walk together. (Don’t forget to pick up after Fido!)
- Ask him what he would love to do with you.
- Host a family yard sale together and donate the proceeds to the charity of his choice..
- Tell him what is great about him.
Welcome to The Counselor Chronicles! This is a way for me to communicate with you about what I’m doing with the boys in the Lower School, topics related to counseling and parenting, and additional items I think you may find helpful. On the Main page I’ll post news and thoughts. The About tab gives a description of the LS counseling program and how I can be a resource to you and your sons, and under the Bookshelf tab I’ll post articles, books, and links I hope you may find interesting. Check back from time to time for new resources and news!
This year I’ve spent a good deal of time in the classroom teaching mindfulness, which is the practice of focusing on what is happening only in the present, in the here and now. Mindfulness activities help to teach children and adults stress reduction, relaxation, focus, and concentration.
From an article on the benefits of teaching mindfulness in schools:
- Mindfulness has become a leading social-emotional learning trend in schools, and a range of studies have shown it to have positive effects on students’ emotional health as well as academic outcomes.
- Edutopia reports a 2014 Dutch study found students who participated in 30-minute mindfulness sessions twice per week for six weeks had lower stress levels, greater well-being and better behavior than their peers — and a 2015 study of students in high-poverty, urban middle schools that participated in mindfulness-based stress reduction had less stress and depression and an increased ability to cope with challenging situations.
- On the academic side, a 2015 study found fourth- and fifth-graders participating in a 12-week mindfulness program had 15% higher math grades than their peers, among other things, and a 2016 study of middle schoolers in a four-week mindfulness program found participating students had significantly improved working memory capacity.
(Tara Garcia Mathewson, Education Dive website)
Our everyday lives are filled with almost constant stimulation and probably even more so for our children. In our current culture it is rare to be asked to sit still and silent AND find that relaxing and enjoyable! It’s been interesting to watch my students as we try simple acts of mindfulness. For example, we’ve done listening activities where they have to listen to a chime as long as possible or count how many times the bell is rung, breathing activities where they’ve had stuffed animals on their tummies to help them focus on their breathing. As with most skills, for some students this comes quite naturally and for others it’s a struggle. I remind them that with practice, and I encourage them to practice at home and school throughout the day, I’m hopeful that mindfulness will become a useful part of their day that they will really look forward to.