I often think back to the times when I was growing up. The times that brought me great warmth and laughter provide a pillow of memories for me as an adult. Sometimes I wish that I could be back in my grandma’s backyard eating the sweet nectar of honeysuckle flowers. Porch play with friends was the best.
A game of jacks gave the day a playful rhythm. Hopscotch was a refreshing adventure to share with the girls down the street, and Double Dutch was only for those who dared to defy gravity and timing. We threw away our clumsiness and went from a regular kid to neighborhood star between the ropes and the winds of laughter.
We got our hands dirty and our hair messed up, and it didn’t bother us. Who would have thought that birthday cakes and Southern pies could be made from a sophisticated combination of dirt, water, and imagination?
We lived in a simpler freedom that I wanted to pass on to my children. However, simple isn’t much in demand anymore. Things have changed and are continuing to. Change can be good, but there are some old things that are worth holding on to.
One-on-one, person-to-person communication is one of them, especially between parents and their children. There are so many new battles that my children will have to face that I didn’t have to. Since I can’t shield them from everything, I at least want to form a line of open communication that allows them to feel comfortable talking to me about what they’re facing. There are three ways that I am implementing this that I would like to share you, and first on the list is family journaling.
I bought a journal for myself and my three kids. Nothing fancy. We have the 50-cent composition pads from the dollar store. We each have a different color with our names written on the front. These journals are only used for sharing and communicating with each other. The kids have the option to share what they have written with me, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to. Sometimes they write about their day. Often, it’s about school. Other times, they’ll just sketch and draw me a picture.
I like to share with them things that I’m working on and my dreams and aspirations for myself, for them, and for our family. Honestly things haven’t gotten really deep. My 7-year-old, who loves video games and computers, has a hard time yielding to anything that doesn’t involve technology. I will maybe get a few stick figures out of him. That’s fine because the idea is just for them to know that I’m interested and that they can talk to me about anything, whether it be dried-up chicken nuggets at school lunch or something deeper.
Second is our no social media night. These are days when we watch movies together at home and have our favorite snacks. We laugh and talk together, and no one is allowed to be on any devices. I thought this would be hard, but they really enjoy it. They always appreciate just kind of kicking around as a family. They talk a lot during these times. They can’t wait to tell me about friends, school, and what they want me to spend money on.
Number three also deals with social media and phone time. I have times of the day when I give my phone no attention because I want my kids to know that I’m available and I’m not distracted. I work from my laptop often, so this one I’m still working on. How I’m learning to balance this is simply by telling them what I’m doing. I’ll get them situated with lunch, chores, homework, etc., then I’ll tell them what I have going on that’s going to cause me to be at my computer or on the phone.
I hope these ideas will be helpful for you and your family. We all have different schedules and responsibilities, so the main thing is to tailor these to fit your family and your lifestyle. Take the meat you need and throw away the bones.
***Originally Published on MemphisParent.com and in Memphis Parent Magazine***