Mom, Dad, and Sam eat dinner after the first day of school. Mom tells about her day, Dad tells about his and both ask Sam about his. He says ‘Fine’. Mom and Dad, sigh, roll their eyes and go back to the salad.
It really doesn’t have to be this way! You can cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity and sharing with a few simple games and practicing humility.
Prepare For Tough Talks By Practicing Curiosity
Learn to create an environment that allows free expression of feelings/thoughts/moral questions. Here are some clear dos and don’ts:
- Play games at the dinner table where there are open ended questions. One game, the Hi/Lo game, requires each person at the table to relate the best and worst parts of their days. Children and parents learn by modelled behavior. This game encourages you to model how you handled an ethical question at work and gives them the opportunity to share about the bully on the playgroup. Other options are the Ungame [a card game easily found at online sellers.]
- Disagree openly, with appropriate boundaries and rules. Violence and intimidation with words and bodies doesn’t end arguments in the real world. We all need practice in listening to and understanding different opinions and our kids will help us with that. They will take the devil’s advocate role and if we can’t agree to disagree or talk calmly about our views, they will not learn to share them.
- Regularly ask them to tell you something you didn’t know. Young children, under 6, believe that their parents are omniscient. It’s how their mind works. Teenagers know more than adults-that’s how their mind works. If you acknowledge that you don’t know it all regularly, you encourage them to teach you about their experiences. You’ll end up understanding them much better and have more opportunities to share how you experience and understand life.
- Don’t answer right away to any question. Discover through open ended questions what they are actually asking/what concerns them. Many times, if you take the time to understand the question better, your answer is shorter, more relevant, and easier.
- Don’t force them to agree. Beliefs evolve over time, but the relationship that allows differences while still being honest, clear, focused, and loving will last through the changes. It gives your child confidence and a sense of responsibility when they get to choose their own beliefs.
- Don’t get passionate. Children stop talking when they feel overwhelmed by emotions–yours or theirs. Calm, measured discussions teach more readily and can lead to understanding.
When families cultivate curiosity great things happen! Closer relationships form, minds become more flexible, ideas and beliefs are openly discussed and understanding of each other and of beliefs becomes more complete. It can be uncomfortable, and it feels dangerous. However, the benefits to your relationships and to your community to have individuals who are strong in their beliefs and know how to peacefully discuss important topics cannot be overstated.
Need help applying these principles to discussions your family engages in? Want support in talking about sexuality, world-view, and other difficult topics? Call Acorn. Christy, Ashley, Laura W and Laura L have likely had these conversations with other parents and loved ones. We love to strengthen you in your important relationships. 940-222-8703