How Do You Get Your Kids to Tell You Stuff?

With the rise in mental health issues among young children and teens; it is more important than ever to stay connected and know what’s going on in your child/teen’s life.  I remember hiding in my room when I was a teen, but now our kids not only hide in their rooms they hide behind their phones. Oh the phones, that is a whole other subject I will get into next time.  The point of this blog is to discuss how we can establish a connection with our kids so they come to us, telling us stuff that is going on in their lives, both good and bad.   We want our kids to feel that we are approachable; our home is their sanctuary where they can be themselves, and express themselves.  I am going to let you in on a little secret – one of the easiest ways to establish a ritual at a young age that allows everyone to stay connected and open up to each other daily.

In our home, we have always done Roses and Thorns at the dinner table:

“What is the best thing that happened to you today?”

“What is the worst thing that happened to you today?” 

These two questions cultivate a great emotional connection between every member of our family.  In fact, we even call our daughter who is away at college to include her once in a while at dinnertime.  I would think by now that they would see this is a silly game, but they really enjoy it and actually look forward to sharing every evening.

These two simple questions help each family member discover things that are going on in each other lives. Details that you may not have really known by the generic question, “How was your day?”   “How was school?” Information about what is truly going on in your child’s life is invaluable.  Kids have at least eight hours away from us a day.  A lot must go on during those hours. If we don’t ask we are most likely not going to find out.  As kids grow older they have a tendency not to share as much.  They gravitate to sharing more with their friends than their parents. With this ritual established at the dinner table, each evening sharing becomes the norm.  Kids get into the pattern of telling parents what’s going on and see parents as approachable even with the difficult stuff.

Your family will connect over celebrating the joys and successes of each family members day.   The feeling and expressing gratitude for what is happening in their lives and each family members life becomes a feel-good association in your home.  Kids can see outside their own lives as well.  Hearing about other siblings or parents experiences help them begin to get outside themselves and their egocentric world.

We all have difficult stuff that happens to us each day.  This exercise provides a platform for talking about the difficult stuff without it feeling so large that it can’t be discussed and takes away the drama that often accompanies tough subjects.   Don’t we all just want to be heard sometimes?  Think about it, sometimes you just need someone to listen and provide an empathetic ear, not solve your problem.  Kids and teens need the same thing.  Parents often feel they need to rescue and immediately begin solution solving.  They will come to you more often if you listen, hear, comfort, empathize and ask if they want your help before running to solve it all.

The relationships’ at home sets the tone for all future relationships.  Don’t you want your kids to be able to feel confident enough in their future relationships to connect, talk about real stuff, not be afraid to bring up difficult topics, openly discuss things when they aren’t going well and feel emotionally connected to the ones they love. This simple ritual actually cultivates all of that.  This ritual will help your kids come to you with the small stuff and when something big is going on in their lives.  You the parent become the outlet for expression of real issues and this alone can help with your child’s mental health.  So ask your kids tonight, “What’s the best thing that happened to you today”?  “What’s the worst thing that happened to you today”? And connect! Your meal might last more than ten minutes too.