And you thought you spent a lot of time with your kids before this crisis

You’ve always been spending time with your kids: taking them to their games, to their music lessons, to their tutors, to their friends’ houses, to doctors’ appointments….  You’ve planned and hosted birthday parties, sleepovers, camping, movie nights, marshmallow roasts….

But this is sooo different.  You are literally stuck inside with them as you try to do your work from home while the kids are trying to do their school lessons from home.  Oh, the interruptions!  You can’t get anything done; the little ones are actually bored with TV watching and the older ones are avoiding their lessons while they hole up in their rooms and veg on computer games and social networking.

Actually, right now is the perfect chance to grab some quality conversation time with your kids. BUT “They don’t want to have a conversation.”  No, they don’t, but you can arrange it anyway. You’re doing 2 things here – modeling how to interact and , most importantly, getting to know your children as the individual people they are.

One of the most successful ways is to have family dinners. Tell everyone that during this time you’d like help with planning and preparing dinners. Make the grocery lists together. Take turns preparing various foods for dinner each day and then everyone sit down at the table (not in front of the TV), and eat together. If this isn’t the norm in your family, be prepared for resistance.

While eating, you can start conversations by putting into words what you think your kids are feelings and how difficult being stuck at home probably must be for them, “Boy, I know this whole thing must be stressful for you.” Or, “I would imagine that not being with your friends is very hard.”  They probably won’t respond with more than a grunt, but it’s a start.

Certain questions help to bring kids out, while other questions drive them away.  Ask a question about topics of interest to them such as how their friends (or a particular friend) are doing with being stuck in.  Avoid questions such as “Did you get your school work done?”  and “Did you feed the dog?”  Those concerns are for a different time.  We want our kids to know we’re interested in them as people, not in just whether they’ve done what they’re supposed to do.

Would you be shocked to learn that research (2017) shows parents and kids spend 3 ½ minutes a week in meaningful conversation ( )?  Most of what passes for conversations between parents and kids consists of asking if they’ve have done something they’re supposed to do, asking them what their plans for the day are, and in giving orders for what they need to do.  This does not make for “meaningful conversations.”  Now is your chance to begin the process of having “meaningful conversations.”  And the dinner table is the most effective place to begin.

Just so you don’t become discouraged, keep reminding yourself that you are “starting a process” and a process takes time.  Accept the grunt responses for now, and keep on promoting the process of meaningful conversations.

P.S.  For more ideas on what to say and what to avoid saying, please see my previous blogs, “Words Matter – a Lot” and  “Talking With Your Children” and “Listening to Our Children, Real Listening….”


4 thoughts on “And you thought you spent a lot of time with your kids before this crisis

  1. Nancy

    I’m grateful for your insights and perspectives Judy. I find these valuable as I try to stay engaged with my adult children across the miles, since sharing a mealtime conversation is no longer possible.


    1. Creating Responsible Children & Adolescents - A Website for Parents & Teachers

      These are very sad times, and I appreciate your reply. Thank you. Judy


  2. Cheryl Scheinberg

    One of the blessings of this isolation has been the return of the family dinner hour. I have seen a shift in participation in the family conversations. My kids are also requesting that we eat dinner at the table and NOT in front of the tv. Slowing down has allowed the return of the family dinner and more time to connect, instead of grabbing fast food on the road to a game or pracrice.


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