“Put your shoes on. Go brush your teeth. Eat your vegetables.” Sound familiar? I do that too! All day long, most parents are talking in our kids and trying to keep them moving forward is an exhausting feat. In our extremely busy lives, a day can pass in a blur. But how much time do we actually spend? to listen and engage our kids for their thoughts and ideas? It’s time to get comfortable with thought-provoking questions that spark conversation and curiosity! I am challenging all of us to find space for what we are doing in our daily lives to create a meaningful, two-way conversation between us and our children. So what are some good questions to ask your children?
As a mother, my instincts are to protect my baby, wrap her in bubble wrap and keep her out of the house until she’s 30. Since I’m sure that’s not an option, it’s my job to prepare her for the real world. All while making her feel safe in the years I’ve spent with her at home. I understand: you never want your child to be emotionally hurt, abandoned, fall or be in an uncomfortable situation, but the fact of the matter is, those situations will happen and I want my child to be prepared to deal with difficult things.
Have you ever been asked the question “what would you tell yourself when you were young?” I think back to a time when I wasn’t invited to bed or I was heartbroken. I wish I had the emotional tools out there to help me navigate those situations and know that not everyone will like me, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything wrong with me.
The world in which we grew up no longer exists and our children will lead what is arguably the most important century in human history. Parents today have a duty to prepare them for the challenges of a world we’ve never been before. With climate change on the rise, social injustices dividing the nation, and media bias pervasive, what are our children hearing and absorbing? What lessons are they learning? How are their personal values shaped?
We are privileged to raise brave children who are more vocal, innovative, and socially connected than ever before, but the conversation must start today to make this future a reality, and tools are missing.
I love book, I’m actually writing one, but reading it before bed at our house is enough to wind down for the evening, perhaps spark a dream or teach her about Rebel Girls. Reading a book is in itself continuing the theme of one-way communication. We need to make time to talk and encourage meaningful, two-way discussion with our children.
Our kids are filling in the blanks with or without us from what they hear on the playground, on television or YouTube, or from overheard adult conversations at home. Children are very curious and absorb everything. It’s important that we meet them where and that we keep open conversations to help them understand, grow, and prepare.
Um okay… but why, when, where, and what do I ask?
Let’s start with why!
Asking big questions will open doors and build the trust that will carry with them during their teen years. It also builds self-esteem, helping them develop social skills and find their voice. Request tough question helps us as parents understand what our children know and what they don’t, allowing us to help shape and prepare them.
When is a good age to start big conversations?
We need to start asking meaningful questions about our children as soon as they are three or four years old. In fact, from research Children start choosing friends based on skin color as early as three years old. Preparing our children will help us think critically, unbiased and give them back tools they need to explore religions, have compassion for others, develop self-esteem and understand their impact on the environment. Not to mention, they can help prepare them if they find a gun, if there’s a fire at home, or if a stranger approaches them.
Where is the best place to start a conversation?
Your daily life offers so many opportunities to chat with our kids… Sitting at the dinner table, on a road trip, stuck in traffic, on the way to school, walking the dog or at a fun spot. A meaningful conversation can last as little as three minutes.
You may ask yourself, what defines a meaningful question?
A great way to start is to think about asking questions in the diverse categories, safety, health, self, and nature. Think about each topic through the child’s lens at an age-appropriate level to experience.
Here are some examples to get you going:
- How can we help the earth in our neighborhood?
- Do you know someone from a different country?
- How can you calm your body when you feel angry?
- What would you do if you found a gun?
- Have you ever been a helper?
Challenge: Start a conversation with a meaningful question on the way to school.
It is important that we be honest with our children and take the opportunity to share our personal experiences. Greet their big questions with, “That’s a good question. Why are you asking? “So you can respond accordingly. Finally, remember that you can answer a big “I don’t know, but let me get back to you!”
Fostering communication, starting at an early age, will positively impact them for the rest of their lives. As parents, we may not have all the answers, but we need the courage to ask questions. All these thoughts and hopes for my daughter are what led me to create Bright Littles. It has been the most fulfilling experience of my life creating a product to help parents facilitate these big conversations.
Real change begins with real conversation.