There’s a Jewish proverb that says, “A mother understands what a child doesn’t say.”
I agree with the sentiment, to a point. Many parents are attuned to their children and know their needs before any words are spoken. But as kids get older, and more prone to secret keeping, it becomes harder to know what exactly they are thinking.
In our home open communication is important. We want to know what goes on in their little minds, and as connected as I am to my children, I am not a mind-reader.
One way that we encourage our children to share their thoughts is by sitting together at dinner and answering three questions about their day. The entire family participates, and it’s a great exercise in open communication.
After a long day at school and work, dinner time is a great way to reconnect as a family.
A typical family meal time in our house is both chaotic and peaceful. There are moments where every single person is talking, shouting and laughing, and moments where the table grows hushed and quiet.
Usually towards the end of the meal I will announce that it’s question time. We each take turns, going around the table answering each question.
“What was the best part of your day?” my husband asks our oldest Penny.
“Playing at the park after school!” she shares excitedly.
“What was your least favourite part?” I ask.
There’s quiet at the table as we all listen to Penny share a story about her day, and soon we learn about a difficult moment she experienced. We talk about a struggle at school that we would have never known about, and we work through it together, planning to follow-up after dinner.
And then we ask, “What do you hope to do tomorrow?” and with that we make plans, for a bright future and a fun day ahead.
We go around the table asking these three questions, and together we learn a bit more about each family member’s day. We all get our turn to remember what we did that day, share our favourite and least favourite part, and make goals for the next day.
It’s a beautiful, and often imperfect moment in our home. We don’t ask our questions every single day, but we do most days. And our kids have come to expect and crave this time of family communication.
In these moments we get to peek into experiences our children have had away from our home, and our protection. Oftentimes a revelation is made, of poor behaviour or a hurt someone else has caused, and we are able to work together to find a resolution.
At this point we do the exercise mostly for our five-year-old, who is away at school all day. Our three-year-old often can’t remember what she did, and requires a bit of help answering, but it’s been great practice for her to simply recall moments in her day and identify the emotions associated with them.
We hope that these three questions will be asked for years to come. I always want my children to feel like they can be open and honest with us, and freely share the good and the bad moments of each day.
I never want to assume how my child feels, instead I simply ask and listen.
Want are some communication tools that you use in your family? Share in the comments below!