In my last article, I talked about Sherry Turkle’s call to get us back into the old-fashioned art of conversation—in person, not on screens. If you’re like me, you found her argument compelling, but find you need a jump start into a few simple practices to help you bring conversation into your day-to-day life. How do we make this happen?
- Prioritize family dinners, screen-free. If we do nothing else, let’s try to make dinner time sacred time, as much as possible. Put screens away, sit around a table, and eat something together, even if it’s just chicken nuggets or boxed mac and cheese. The food may not be a perfect gourmet meal, but at least we can feast on some conversation and time together. Try to make a space for each member of the family to share something and be listened to. In our family, we try to practice asking each other our “rose, thorn, and bud”—something we liked about our day, something we disliked, and something we are looking forward to. Even our toddler gets to answer! And we all practice listening to the other people’s answers.
Now, I’m all about being real, so let me be honest—I have a three-year-old, and sometimes he likes to yell and throw his food, so sometimes this goes better than other times. But it’s less about a perfect conversation and more about the habit of attempting to talk and listen to one another. I hope the habit will serve us well as the kids get older.
Carve out a half hour for story time before bed. Unless we are out late and everybody just needs to hit the sack, pronto, my husband and I split up and each take a kid for age-appropriate story time. My husband reads our toddler picture books. My daughter and I read through longer books together, as well as read a short Bible selection, and say prayers. If something seems to be on her mind, we take time to discuss it further. Some nights I’m tired and I get impatient, but again, I think it’s the regular practice that communicates a lot.
Find something to do together that you both enjoy. While there is definitely a time and place for doing activities with your kiddos that you don’t enjoy at all, just because you love them, I think the most sustainable activities are ones you can all enjoy together. Reading, cooking, and playing board games are some of my daughter’s and my favorites. When we do these activities, we can just be ourselves and have a nice time. We also go on “mom-daughter dates” from time-to-time, usually shopping or doing something that we both enjoy. The time in the van without the toddler piping up offers great opportunities for conversation, joking, and just enjoying each other’s company.
Stop, take a deep breath, and look in your child’s eyes. Sometimes when the rush of life begins to get to me, I practice being more mindful about the miraculous being that is this little human. The saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” In the midst of these long days, I don’t want to miss sitting in wonder of the fact that my husband and I created two little humans, two little people who did not exist before, and they are full of magic, mischief, intelligence, kindness, creativity, and insight. If I rush through life and don’t stop to behold the wonder that is my children, I will miss one of the richest experiences of life.
Stop. Breathe. Really look at these incredible masterpieces. Give thanks for their existence. Remember how boring (if more restful) life was before them. Give thanks again. Hold them close.
Sometimes it really is the simple things that help us connect most with our children. Let’s work on carving out that time to talk and listen. We can do this, parents!
By Kudoso Kontributor, Rebecca Miller