Have you ever known someone who despite the overwhelming odds against them, has overcome incredible trauma to lead a healthy, happy life? Every once in a while I meet someone like this and I am always in awe. So what's the best recipe for helping your child be resilient in the midst of whatever they face? Research says, it's you!
In this episode, Dina and I will talk about essential discussions we need to have with our kids (including conversations about LGBTQI, terrorism, and using technology for good). We'll also discuss how asking the right questions will help us, and our kids, be empowered with insights, understanding, and perspective. We don’t need to be experts to address difficult subjects with our kids, we just need to be intentional.
Hello. Welcome to episode 26! I’m really excited about today’s episode because I get to introduce you to a very wise woman, Dina Alexander, from Educate and Empower Kids. Isn’t that a fantastic name for an organization? Sign me up for whatever they offer! Actually, they do offer some great resources which we’re going to talk about today.
So Dina and I are going to discuss the importance of talking about big, sometimes challenging topics with our kids. We’ll also touch on how asking the right questions can help our kids reach their potential. Educate and Empower Kids’ latest book, Conversations with My Kids, 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, is a great resource to help you with that. The goal of the book is: “to provide tools that facilitate amazing conversations to help you form a deeper connection with your kids and strengthen your entire family.” Wow! Yes please!
The book is divided into five sections: technology (i.e. screen time, social media), the world around us (i.e. the environment, feminism), relationships (i.e. empathy, healthy sexuality), self-improvement (i.e. overcoming fears, money management), deeper topics (i.e. integrity, spirituality). Basically like the subtitle says, it’s 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.
At the end of the episode I’ll talk about what you can to do to win a free copy of the book if you’re interested.
Conversation with Dina
Dina is a powerhouse. I’m so grateful she wanted to come and share these insights with you today. Here’s a general summary of three of the big points we talked about:
We don’t need to be experts to address difficult subjects with our kids. And like Sherie Christensen mentioned in episode 25, if we don’t teach our kids about these difficult subjects, they are open free game for whatever ideologies get to them first. So much of what we need to teach our kids will come up naturally as we live life and talk about our experiences. I like the idea of discussing subjects as they come up. We need to address the things our kids might see or hear. My husband and I are often surprised when our oldest daughter chimes in on a conversation we’re having from another room when we had no idea she was paying any attention!
Influential conversations are loving, kind, compassionate. They can be hopeful and positive. I love how Dina talks about thinking outside the box. Help kids step inside the minds and hearts of people who are different from them. Encourage them to imagine what it would be like to be a different ethnicity, or religion, or to live in a different community. Talk through what daily life might look like. Ask them to consider how they might respond to different situations if they were in someone else’s shoes.
Technology can either create selfish un-empathetic people, or it can help facilitate real connections and social change. It’s up to us how we use it and how we teach our kids to use it. I love how Dina talked about how the right time for a cell phone is when our kids are ready to be deliberate with it; to use it as a tool. Help them be on the offensive rather than the defensive when it comes to tech use. And I really like the idea of teaching tech use side by side.
So after talking with Dina about all the powerful questions in her new book, I was reminded of another book I read a few years ago called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Wendy Watson Nelson. It’s a faith-based book, but I just remember learning that some answers don’t come without first asking the right questions.
I believe that the answer to every question is out there, but often it takes intentionally looking for the answers before we find them.
Have you ever gone geocaching? My family and I love to look for geocaches when we’re out hiking or exploring a new place. Geocaching is an activity where you use GPS to hide and seek these containers, called "geocaches," at specific coordinates, really anywhere in the world. Anybody can hide or find a geocache. All you have to do is download a geocache app to get started. If you’re new to geocaching then I bet there are some hiding near your neighborhood that you don’t even know about!
That happened to us! A few years ago, when we first discovered geocaching, we found out there was a mini cache hiding right at the end of our street. It had been there the whole time we’d lived in this house, but it wasn’t until we started looking for it that we found it. You might pass dozens of geocaches all over your town if you aren’t looking for them.
It’s the same thing with asking questions. There are all kinds of things that might go unanswered if we don’t ask the questions. Like when my kids were small, I knew lots of stuff they didn’t know, but some things I didn’t think to teach them until they asked me. Them not asking didn’t change whether I knew or not, just like not looking for a geocache didn’t change whether it was hiding near me or not, it just changed whether they knew. So when they’d say, “Where does the sun go at night?” or “Where does the water in our sink come from?” I’d get the opportunity to pour down knowledge on them.
Similarly, our kids know things and have experiences they may not always think to share with us. It takes us asking the right question to spark a conversation that will help us understand their perspective and experiences. Questions are powerful!
But not every question brings about the answers we’re looking for. When I ask my kids, “how was your day?” I almost always get a lame, “fine.” But when I ask questions like, “What did you do at recess?” or “Who did you sit by at lunch?” or “Did you have any sad moments today?” or “What did you laugh about today?” then I can usually get more insights into their experiences.
A couple weeks ago I was asking my son about school, and then thought to ask him, “do you ever hear bad words at school?” He then shared with me that, “yes” he has a couple friends who say bad words sometimes. I can’t change whether he hears those words, but I can help him process those situations. So I asked him, “how does it make you feel when you hear those words?” He thought about it for a second and then said he “felt sad.” Then we brainstormed some things he could do when he heard things he didn’t want to hear. He could ask his friends not say those words; he could tell a teacher; he could sing a happy song in his mind to distract him from the words, etc. And of course I took the opportunity to reassure him that he can always tell me when things make him uncomfortable and I will help him with them.
If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known about that experience.
Unfortunately, sometimes we ask and our kids just won’t open up to us. But don’t give up. Keep making the effort and helping them see that you are a safe person to open up and be vulnerable with.
A couple other thoughts about questions:
David Hoffeld, author of The Science of Selling said, “Questions trigger a mental reflex known as “instinctive elaboration.” When a question is posed, it takes over the brain’s thought process. And when your brain is thinking about the answer to a question, it can’t contemplate anything else. Not only does hearing a question affect what our brains do in that instant, it can also shape our future behavior.”
Behavioral scientists have ... found that just asking people about their future decisions significantly influences those decisions, a phenomenon known as the “mere measurement effect.”
One of the ways questions can have that influence is through promoting self-assessment. I can tell my children to be nice to their siblings and that will have limited effect. But if I ask them properly timed questions (with genuine curiosity for their perspective) like, “do you feel like you treat your family members as well as your friends?” that can lead to self-reflection and self-motivated shifting of behavior.
So when it comes to connecting with our kids, and helping them understand truth from error, asking questions like those posed in Conversations with Our Kids, will take us down the path for us and our kids to be empowered with insights, understanding, and perspective.
Here are a few more examples from the book:
What are some ways we can help and uplift others and create positive ripples with technology?
How does media affect our choices or shape our beliefs, political views, and attitudes?
What is the opposite of racism?
Why do some countries live in peace while others have turmoil?
So as you raise your kids in this digital world, consider using questions to encourage them to be critical thinkers.
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Last but not least, if you’d like to win a free copy of Conversations with My Kids, here’s what you need to do:
1 - subscribe to Raising Today’s Kids on your favorite podcast app, like iTunes or spotify.
2 - leave a review so that it will help others have access to insights like Dina’s that are empowering us as parents!
3 - reach out to me through Facebook, Instagram, or my website, raisingtodayskids.com.
Everyone who does those three steps - subscribes, leaves a review, and contacts me between now and June 7th will be entered to win a copy of Conversations with My Kids. I can’t wait to send it to one of you lucky listeners. You will love it!!
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The last thing I want to say is to just quote Dina’s last message to us, “You’re smarter than you think. You’re doing better than you think!”
So keep up the intentional parenting. You are just who your child needs!!
Thanks for listening, and have an awesome day!