You know that typical scene where a mom picks up her tween-age daughter from school, she plops in the front seat, says, “Hey” and then puts on her headphones and closes her eyes? Or the one where the mom says, “So, how was school?” and the son responds with, “Fine. What’s for dinner?”
I don’t want that to be typical at my house. I want my kids to talk to me. More than that, I want my kids to feel like their feelings and ideas are important and valued. I want them to know that what they say is important and what they feel is valid.
It’s just a hunch, but I think it’s up to me. I think I have to talk to my kids and encourage them to talk to me. So, although my kids are young and I don’t have a lot of experience with iPod-toting tweens, I am hoping to lay the foundation for open communication now!
One of the best ways I’ve experienced (and heard from parents older and wiser than me) is by maximizing bedtime!
Yeah, you know like bedtime routines? I know you used to do them when your kids were babies and you swaddled them. Or when they were preschoolers and you read Goodnight Moon as fast as you could?
Did you know bedtime routines are a valuable tool in your parenting toolbox with any age kids?
Here’s some fun tips for making bedtime a time of sharing and bonding…
1. Stretch ’em out.
I know it’s your final moments before you’re free to lay on the couch and go to the bathroom without someone tapping on your arm, but kids can feel you rushing them. Spend time listening and enjoying the final, quiet moments of their day. Your open ears will encourage lingering conversations and heart-to-heart talks.
2. Bless Them
The book, The Blessing encourages parents to physically touch their children every day and say words of blessing and encouragement aloud. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher began this tradition when her children were young. She says she laid her hands on her kids every night and said, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you…”. It became such a tradition for them that when her kids were in High School and college and she went to bed before they got home, they’d come into her bedroom, lay their hands on her and bless her!
3. Teach Them
Use bedtimes to impart some parenting wisdom–maybe through specific prayers, stories or prodding conversation. Ann Voskamp tells how she reads from a specific prayer book every night before bed and her children (of all ages!) enjoy hearing their name inserted into the prayers. Author Steven James made up an ongoing bedtime story for years. Jeff Goins’ father told stories of his own childhood each night. Barbara Rainey from FamilyLife reads books with important themes to her teenagers at bedtime!
4. Train Them
Many times when I’m putting my daughter to bed she says, “Mommy, can I tell you something?” I always respond with, “You can tell me anything!” I’m thinking of those tween and teen years ahead when I want her to ask me that question and let her heart spill out into my waiting arms and ears. Of course, at 6 years old, she usually says, “Can we play a game tomorrow?” or asks what we’re having for breakfast.
But if we didn’t have those moments of whispering about our day, letting our minds wind down together, enjoying stories together, I wouldn’t hear that “Mommy, can I tell you something?” question. And I pray that as I make time to talk to and listen to my children now, it will keep a bridge of communication open for the rest of our lives and they will be quick to say, “Mommy, can I tell you something?”
What’s your strategy for meaningful conversations with your kids?
|Amanda is a stay-at-home mom of two who blogs at OhAmanda.com and Impress Your Kids. In her former life, Amanda was a Children’s Pastor — overseeing, organizing and developing ministry for kids in nursery through middle school, but now that she is a mom, her “skills” are used up on her kids!|