“What were the happiest and hardest things that happened today?” One family posed that question at dinner each night, and invited family members to talk about their experiences. This was their creative way of trying to understand how the day had gone for each of them. The situations shared by parents and children often started lively discussions.
Parents can feel frustrated when they ask “What happened today?” and children give a one-word response or grunt. Actually, it’s even hard for adults to give a satisfying response to a general question like “How was your day?” so most of us just answer “Fine.” Asking a specific question like “What did you do in the yard today?” gives us a better chance of getting a window into the day’s events.
We don’t want to feel disconnected from children’s experiences, and having a particular time to talk every day – whether it’s driving in the car or at dinner time or bedtime – ensures that we stay in touch with what they are thinking and feeling.
Questions about feelings are more to stimulate conversation than those asking for facts. Asking questions like “Were you proud of anything you did today?” or “Was anything frustrating?” helps children begin to reflect on and understand their experiences more fully. In the Nurtured Heart Approach, we want to give children positive recognition for paying attention to their feelings, for finding words for them, and being willing to talk about them.
For children who aren’t sure about their feelings or don’t have words for them, looking at pictures of people’s faces showing various emotions and pointing to them can be a good way to start a conversation about their experiences. Our director of admissions, Warren Wallace, has created a feelings chart that he has shared with many classrooms. Here’s a link to the chart on our blog.
Making time to talk about the day’s experiences and feelings about them allows children to learn that everyone has emotions and that feelings don’t last forever. Sharing reactions to the day’s events builds empathy and the ability to think about how to plan for an even better day tomorrow.