How to get your family talking at meal times, and active listening
I know how hard it can be to get any info out of your kids about their day. How was school? 'good'. What did you do? 'can't remember'. What was for lunch? 'dunno'.
I can't be the only one who gets one word answers to everything, can I??
So, I designed some little square cards of joy, to help our family open up and just get talking about anything. They're designed to be used at meal times, just pick one, and ask the question aloud. If your kids are old enough to read or are learning to read, get them involved in reading it out loud, or choosing the card for today.
There are 16 in a set, which I reckon will keep you going for a while, and will lead to other questions that you or your kids might have too.
We had an interesting chat while we were on holiday this half term (I think the London half term must be a week earlier than ANYWHERE else in the country!), as we grabbed the cards and chose a question.
"Do you think God chooses us, or do we choose God?"
Well, what a humdinger!! One kid said God chooses us, the other said that we choose God. We had a good chat about it all, I mean, the boys are 7 and 5, it wasn't going to be an incredible, theology-filled discussion, but it got them thinking about it, and will hopefully get them asking other questions like it.
Not all the questions are about God, some are about our family - what's the best thing about being in our family? Or, some are just random, but are good conversation starters - If you were marooned on a desert island, what 3 things would you want with you.
Here is the best tip for having chats with your kids that last longer than 10 seconds - ACTIVE LISTENING.
Active listening is when you use their own words, ask it back to them as a question, and it leads onto more chat. It's hard to explain. Here's an example -
"If you were marooned on a desert island, what 3 things would you want with you?"
child - "um, maybe food, some rope, and my ipad!"
you - "your ipad?"
child - "ye, coz I'd want to play Minecraft!"
you - "you'd want to play minecraft?"
child - "ye, then I wouldn't be bored"
you - "ah ok, so you want your ipad, food and some rope? what's the rope for?"
child - "I dunno, maybe building stuff, tying things up?"
you - "tying things up?"
... you see how it works? You parrot their words back to them, and it helps them to finish that thought all the way through. It's like asking 'why?' without asking 'why?' and without leading them in any particular direction, and letting them go whichever way their mind is going. If you were to ask 'what things would you tie up?' it immediately closes in on one aspect, rather than letting them explore what their ideas are.
Try it, it might take a bit of getting used to, but it's the best tool I have. I was taught it on a Breastfeeding Counselling course, and it's just how I talk to people now. It makes you feel heard, because it shows people are listening to you and really taking in the words you're saying, and want to know more. It means that you can take your thoughts through to their natural place, and it helps you to work things out in a way you wouldn't have done before.
SO - the teatime chats are on preorder at the moment, with a special price of £6. After the 1st March the price will increase to £7.50, so get your orders in now and fill up that present box! They'd make lovely birthday presents, or 'just because' presents (am I the only one that does those??).