Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Create Conversations

 (this article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas, Monmouth, IL)

Last night before bed I wrote out my schedule for today. You see I am a chronic list maker. Also, I had so much to do I was seriously worried I would forget something important… you know, like a kid.

It only took me a few minutes to wrap my head around all the errands, practices and general taxiing of children. Seeing it mapped out on paper set my mind at ease that somehow I could get it all done. I loathe busyness. And while I’ve not yet quite figured out how to eliminate all the chaos I have come to recognize one thing. Busyness cannot be an excuse for not spending time with my kids.

On those days when I meet myself coming and going, when I drive around the town square a hundred times a day I secretly long for a nanny. Or a housekeeper. Or a chef. Or a personal shopper. Or a mini-me!

Even if I could duplicate myself I must remember that in all the shuffle, hustle and bustle I’m dealing with my kids. I’m not just moving from point A to point B. I’m transporting my most precious cargo, my children.  As far as I’m concerned they are a captured audience when I have them in the car. Even if it is for fifteen minutes.

Isn’t it so easy to be wrapped up in the activity of life that we overlook the little gaps in time we can harvest? What if we tried to be a little more aware in every moment?

Take your car for example. Consider turning off your cell phone when driving your children around.  Do they really need to hear your adult drama anyway? How about spending the time it takes to go from practice to the store to engage your child in conversation? Ask open-ended questions about their day to instigate conversation. Then listen. Be patience in the silence that may follow. If you get an unsatisfactory answer prompt some more by asking  “And then what happened?”

If you don’t have much success at first don’t be discouraged. When children come to learn that you will offer them your full attention they will be happy to open up, even the sullenest of preteens. My son was amazed when I first instituted this tactic. One day as we tooled around town he stopped talking and waited for me to answer my ringing phone. When I didn’t he asked me why I didn’t pick it up. I said, “ Because I wanted you to finish your story.” He’s not shut up since.

We all know we’re supposed to have dinner together every night and if you can figure out how to make that happen when mommy works and the kids play soccer... you should be writing this article not me. In our home we encourage extra curricular activities and we allow each of our kids to choose one sport or interest at a time. Which means somebody is almost always missing dinner. 

Just because we don’t eat dinner together every night though, doesn’t mean I am off the hook for preparing a meal. So while I’m getting a recipe ready or stirring a pot on the stove I make a point to engage my kids. Try inviting your son or daughter to join you in the kitchen. Busy their hands with food prep or ask them to sit at the table and keep you company. Working side by side is a great way to create moments for little exchanges of information. Instead of allowing them to veg in front of the T.V., I call one of them in and ask, “Is there anything from your day you wanted to share with me?” Depending who or what’s on the television I may actually get one of them to take me up on my offer!

The point is if you wait for the time to connect with your child you may be disappointed. Moments need to be made and with a little creativity and flexibility you can use even the smallest snippets of time to nurture your relationship with your child. It’s so important to be intentional with your children. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so. That’s why!

Stephanie Sikorski is a parent educator with the Monmouth-Roseville school district and can be reached at

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