Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Netflix as part of my membership on the #StreamTeam. All of the opinions expressed with my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Let’s face it. As moms, we often feel lost as to what to do. We find a parenting stride and then something happens to send us off course. I don’t like reading parenting books (too much time investment for me), but I do read lots of blogs and message boards.
Parents used to have the help of their village to raise kids, but studies show that people now live further away from their immediate families than ever before. So, it is up to young families to create their own village…work colleagues, neighbors, and now strangers on the internet make up our village. Parenting is hard – and although I write a parenting blog, I am by no means an expert parent. However, I have spent lots of time exploring how to get my kids to continue open conversation around all topics in their lives.
1. Rule #1 – No Secrets
We have a rule in our house that we do not keep secrets. We do not use the word secret really at all, and instead differentiate between surprises (good) and secrets (bad). A surprise is something you might not share right away, but when you do, it will make others and yourself feel good. A secret it something that might make you or others upset if they found out. The hardest part of our no secrets rule is that others will sometimes encourage our kids to keep a seemingly harmless secret from us (e.g., a special snack, a forbidden show) – and this confuses our kids.
2. Plan Parent-Child 1:1 Dates
My husband and I try to do special things with each of the boys. For example, my oldest will go to hockey games with my husband or hang out in my craft room or go shopping with me. We try to do things we both like so that that it is truly enjoyable for both of us! Here are some great ideas for dates with sons and dates with daughters.
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Ask kids questions that elicit more than a yes, no, or fine answer. We ask questions that are broad but specific enough to focus the conversation. “So, how was the soccer game at recess today? Who played?” or “What was the best part about your day? Why did you like that?”
Because of these open-ended questions, we discovered that my oldest was really upset by some of the roughhousing happening on the playground at recess, and we were able to address it before it spiraled out of control.
4. Include Them in Conversations with Adults
As professors’ kids, our boys have been forced into an adult world from an early age. They take part in events we host as equal partners in conversation. As I watch my colleagues kids as teens, I see that they maturely communicate openly in conversations with their parents’ colleagues – I hope my kids grow into the same, confident young adults!
5. Use Movies and Books to Spark Difficult Conversations
Movies and books make it easy to discuss difficult concepts with children. The boys and I stream Netflix for Kids together frequently. Truth is, we stream so often Netflix just sent this #StreamTeam gal the world’s most comfortable shirt to wear while watching.
There is a great selection of shows and movies on Netflix, so we can find one that we can all agree on as a family. Recently, the two older boys, my husband, and I streamed Hotel Transylvania 2 together. We had loved the first movie and were so excited about the sequel.
If you are familiar with the Hotel Transylvania movies, you know that one of the main themes is accepting differences. These movies encouraged interesting talks about diversity. While watching the movies, the boys made connections to situations where they had seen their friends or others excluded based on their personal differences. In Hotel Transylvania 2, Drac is hiding the fact from his father, Vlad, that his grandson appears to be human and not a vampire. The monsters, you see, have very negative opinions about humans and have excluded them from the hotel for years. Now that Drac has found that he has quite a bit in common with humans, he is pushing back against his dad’s outdated ways. Movies have sparked lots of courageous conversations for us, as it is sometimes easier to talk about “characters” than ourselves.
6. Garden Together
When the boys and I garden together, we spend the whole time chatting…sometimes about plants (in this case a toad), mostly about life.
7. Hold Hands if They Want To
My 7 year old still slips his hand into mine each day after school as we stroll home and talk about the day. Something about the long day apart changes his “Mom” into “Mommy” and we chat our way back to the house.
8. Create Safe Zones Where Punishment is Off the Table
Sometimes you want/need your child to tell you what they are thinking. In these times, I think it is helpful for kids to know they will not be punished for their honesty. Is it more important that you know your not-quite-a-swimmer went to the lake by himself (so you can take actions to prevent this in the future and talk openly about the consequences) or is it more important to punish him for making that choice while out of your care at camp?