After School Minivan Conversations

On any given afternoon, you’ll hear me ask my kids, “how was your day?” and almost in unison, you’ll hear the “…fine” from across the room.

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I keep telling myself that they are getting older and that those short responses are common, but the truth is that I’m not getting the answers I’m looking for. And well, maybe, just maybe, I’m not asking the type of questions that yield the kind of answers I seek. They are, after all, young kids, and they’ll always answer what’s easiest for them.

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Of course, my four-year-old is always excited to answer that same question with long answers, one that begins to describe his adventures at pre-school, when another child said something mean, or even if he liked his mom-packed lunch that day.

I’m not sure where exactly the switch from long answers to short ones occur, but I want to make sure the communication channels are always open and that my kids know they can share what they are feeling with me.

It’s important to practice talking to our kids after school, around the dinner table, or even in the car, during the moments we have with them. I often talk to my kids in the car, in between activities, since that seems to be a great place for me to get their undivided attention.

I like to talk about the small things, the details of their life -from the activities at the home school center to the new kid they played with on the playground. This ongoing dialogue of the daily stuff is exactly the kind of practice rounds we need, as parents, to be able to talk about the “big stuff.”

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This year, we have a teenager (another exchange student) in the house, and that means that her friends will be coming over to hang out and socialize. I want my house to be a place where my kids’ friends feel comfortable and safe, but I’m also aware that my younger ones will overhear conversations about things like alcohol.

While my kids are aware that alcohol consumption is common among adults -we live in New Orleans after all- they’ll hear stories that include High School aged kids, just a few years older than them, kids, that they consider peers.

Working with Responsiblity.org and their #TalkEarly program this year has brought to my attention the importance of talking to our kids, especially after school when we are overscheduled and often run on autopilot.

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Whenever I talk to my kids, I try to share a story about my childhood that they relate to, no matter how difficult the conversation. I’ve had a few bad experiences in High School when it comes to alcohol, and this is one topic I’m passionate about discussing with my kids early.

While my daughter is the social butterfly and always wants to be “in-the-know”; she’s also really easy to read when she’s not having a good day from something she’s experienced or overheard. She’s a very analytical child, and will often keep the wheels turning in her mind about a subject unless I bring it up.

I’ve learned to ask her open-ended questions, the type that encourages conversation, instead of the those that yield yes or no answers. I also try to be a good listener, patient with her as she comes up with the answers and kind to her when I respond. Of course, each of our kids is different, and they require own their style of conversation.

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Like everything else, there is an art to having a conversation, and I’m still learning how to do it better when I talk to my kids about life. Alcohol is an interesting topic and one that I hope to keep an ongoing conversation with my children as they grow.

What I love about working with Responsibility.org’s #TalkEarly program is that they have resources for parents with kids of all ages, from six through the college years. It’s a relief to me to know that there is a resource to turn to for challenging topics like this, especially around something so widely accepted and yet rarely discussed.

How do you talk to your kids about alcohol?

 

Disclosure: From time to time, I work with awesome companies that share my values and have important messages to share.  Today’s post was brought to you by #TalkEarly campaign and Responsibility.org. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that encourage my creativity.

 

August 22, 2016

Leave a Reply 16 comments

Lisa - August 22, 2016 Reply

Wow, what a great post! I also think it is very important to bring these topics close to our children early on in their life.

Lauren - August 22, 2016 Reply

Awesome post, Laura! My kids are still young but I keep thinking about when the right time is to talk to them about this topic. How old were your kids when you first brought this up?

Elena Ruiz - August 22, 2016 Reply

not only are the pictures beautiful of you and your family but also the subject! you are so right on to bring awareness to talking to our kids about alcohol. It’s never too early!

Mary Ellen - August 22, 2016 Reply

I love how open you are about talking with your family on important subjects. I feel like in this country we are so shushed to not talk about such things as if it’s not appropriate. Alcohol is a real problem and it should be talked about early. great post!

Sarah - August 22, 2016 Reply

I absolutely love your honesty with your family and applaud you for sharing it with the internets. Why more bloggers don’t talk about these topics online I don’t know. We all know that life isn’t a rosy picture and I love that you are sharing the realities with your kids.

Matt H - August 22, 2016 Reply

My dad was an alcoholic and my mom spent years pretending everything was “fine.” I’ve made it my goal to talk to my own children about the risks and the realities so they are aware of how it can destroy lives. I’m happy to read that you are doing this with your kids and thanks for sharing an important conversation.

Karen - August 22, 2016 Reply

Thank you for another great post! It’s so important to talk about these issues and not make them “taboo” that’s just normal conversation!! Thank you for all that you do!

Samantha Rogers - August 22, 2016 Reply

You nailed another important topic for families. I don’t understand why more people don’t talk about how to talk to their kids. I know you typically share recipes but I am always happy when you share with us your nuggets of life lessons. You are a great mom!

Emilie Sweghart - August 22, 2016 Reply

you have such a beautiful family and an even more beautiful heart. A a long time reader, I appreciate that you share insight on parenting and how you do what you do. I Look up to you and I appreciate the reminder to talk to our kids about things that aren’t always easy. much love from SF!

Alexa - August 22, 2016 Reply

Your posts are truly amazing and inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Sharon - August 23, 2016 Reply

great post Laura, as always. As an abused wife to an alcoholic for many years -until I finally left him because I was afraid for my children, this is a conversation that I bring up with my children, that their father is sick and that they must see what alcohol does and how it can ruin a family. thanks for sharing.

Esmeralda - August 23, 2016 Reply

My step-daughter is now a freshman in high school & we’ve been talking to her about alcohol, smoking, & drugs for years now. As her step-mom, I have a unique bond with her that her Dad & Mom don’t have. She often will ask me my thoughts on things before she brings it up with her Dad & Mom so I have a chance to share my own experiences (the good and bad) with her so that she feels like she’s not alone with her thoughts on the subject. I found that if I allow her to tell me what her opinion is on the subject before I give her mine, I have the opportunity to see how her mind came up with said opinion. Then I give her my thoughts on the subject and reasons why. I always try to incorporate my own experience & if it didn’t work out well for me I make sure she understands that I also used it as a learning experience.

    Laura Fuentes - August 23, 2016 Reply

    I love that our parenting approach to talking to our kids is so similar. Thank you for sharing Esmeralda!

Christina - August 23, 2016 Reply

Thanks for the topic on talking to your children. I know it is needed. In the future could you give examples of how you start questions. I grew up in a home where we DID NOT have these types of conversations in our family, and it is still a HUGE struggle for me to know how to talk to my children. I would hate this to get passed on to their children.

    Laura Fuentes - August 25, 2016 Reply

    Hi Christina, you are right, I should have provided a few more questions for guidance. You’ll want to ask the type of questions that don’t yield yes or no answers.
    Here are a few (open ended) conversation starters I use:
    – why do you think…
    – how did X …
    – what do you think happened to …
    – what are some of …
    – how can we…
    – who …
    You’ll want to avoid close-ended questions because they are often answered with one word.
    -Do you like ice-cream? yes/no
    -Do you want an apple? yes/no
    They also often begin with:
    -did you….?
    -When…?
    -Do you want to…?
    -Will you…?
    -Have you…?

    When we ask open-ended questions, it gives our children the opportunity to use language and expand their vocabulary. It makes them think about their answers since they’ll also have to fill in the conversation with additional details. These details provide us the opportunity to ask more questions and continue the conversation. In return, we learn what they think about life, their opinions on something, giving us the insight to their life. I love open ended questions because it helps kids use their imagination and problem solve. Most importantly, they build relationships! When we ask open-ended questions, we both become more invested in the conversation when they engage with full sentences and it gives our children the feeling that we genuinely care about their life. I really believe that these type of conversations raise children’s self-esteem, since, over time, they begin to feel like their opinions, ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc matter.
    I hope this helps and I commend you for wanting to create the type of relationships with your children you want to have. xo -Laura

      Anna - August 27, 2016 Reply

      I am not good about talking to my kids (or my husband) about things that are difficult. I grew up in a house where nobody talked about stuff. For example, I learned that I would get my period when my best friend got hers before me and she told me of the horrific and traumatic thing that had happened to her. As you can imagine, by the time I got my period I was scared to bleed out! Things like sex and alcohol were just never talked and because of this, I went to college so naive about the things that were real and happening. Thankfully, I have married a great man and he has helped me a lot, but it’s still not “normal” for me to talk -I often find myself not knowing how to come up with things.
      I just read your response to Christina and thank you, this helps me a lot. Thank you Christina for saying it’s difficult for you too, I know I am not alone.

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