My son's third grade teacher was an angel sent from God. None of our neighbors thought so.
I didn't think anything of it when kids would find out who he had been assigned to for third grade, their comments would be along the lines of, "Oh, she's mean", and, "Bummer, dude." Well, a mean teacher to a kid means that she keeps them in line and enforces classroom rules. I'm all for that. But when the parents would hear who he had for a teacher, then wince and sadly say, "Ohhhhhh", I admit I was a bit worried.
She turned out to be exactly what my son needed the most. She spent long hours with me many a-day after school, trying to figure out what would work best for my son in the classroom. She told me one day, "I lose sleep at night if I think I'm not reaching a child in a way that will help him learn." And, I knew she meant it. We worked together until he was up and running in his new school, and loving it!
One of the best pieces of advice she gave her school kids' parents on Curriculum Night was this:
"It is so easy to complain about school. We work those kids hard. They will be happy to tell you all the bad things that happened in school each day. What I highly recommend to you parents is to challenge them each night at the dinner table with this question: 'What are three good things that happened at school today?' Have this interaction consistently, and they will begin to look for good things during the day. It makes a big difference when they are looking for the positive, instead of expecting what's hard at school."
So, since our dinner time never seemed to lack discussions on the awful things that happened that day, we decided to implement that at our house, not only with our third grader, but our seventh grader as well--and three years later, this remains our dinner table ritual on school nights: We sit down to dinner, say our meal blessing, then ask "Who wants to tell us their three good things first?" It's fun to see them race to go first. When one is speaking, she or he gets everyone's full attention. We can ask questions about the good thing, or simply listen respectfully. We did have to make the rule that having pizza for lunch didn't count as one of the good things, but what game played in gym class is okay.
Our kids are always processing their daily lives, just as we do as adults. In Dr. Dan Siegel's book, Mindsight, he describes how learning to process day-to-day occurrences as children supports emotional regulation as adults as well. Encouraging kids to talk about their experiences gives them a safe space to do this.
Journaling is a great processing tool, and many of you know that I am big on it. Recently, educator Kevin Strauss sent me information on his website called FamilyeJournal.com. Here is Mr. Strauss' description of this innovative, family bonding site:
"FamilyeJournal (FEJ) is like family dinner online. FEJ offers a new set of four questions each day and each family member responds online. When you read your family member's answers, a new rapport, familiarity and connection occurs. It's simple, free and fun to share online which leads to a stronger connection offline."
So if your family is busy with activities, and more time is spent on Facebook than face-to-face, you might try FamilyeJournal out to connect your family more deeply, yet simply.
No matter the method, giving our children an avenue for discussing their day, both the positive and more difficult aspects of the day, is important to learning emotional processing and regulation, as well as feeling loved, listened to and supported.
Helpful Parenting Sites:
Love and Logic Parenting