When I became a new mom (13 years ago) I, like all moms/parents, was on information overload with all the things I was reading and being told by other moms/parents who thought I wanted to hear all of their advice. I was pretty good at filtering out the information I knew would be of no use to me and thought definitely did not mesh with my husband’s and my parenting style. There were, however, plenty of ideas and bits of advice I did find useful and tucked away for future use. One of the best ideas I got was from a seasoned mother of two, who came to present at one of the Mom’s groups I was part of. She said to always make sure to check-in with your children and start early.
My daughter was only 4 years old at the time and my son a newborn. The speech-language pathologist in me knew that I could start this immediately with my daughter. She was a talker (wonder where she gets that from???) and very intuitive. Since that day 9 years ago, ‘Check-In Time’ is a daily ritual; once my son began talking, it started with him too.
This Check-In time is sacred time for me as a parent. Little did I know starting this with my children 9 years ago, that our world would be overtaken by smart phones; texting seeming to be the main mode of communication these days. Further, I see so many hiding behind their phones during prime opportunities for verbal dialogue/communication and eye contact such as at restaurants. I often see entire families all on their phones (we have a “no phone” policy during any meals at home or away from home) instead of interacting with one another.
I am so grateful that after all these years, my kids still love our check-in time. My kids will often hear me say when we have 1:1 time, “Is there anything you would like to check-in about? Anything on your mind?” Most of the time they say, “Yes mom” and talk and start the dialogue. Sometimes these check-ins last 5 minutes and sometimes much MUCH longer, especially now that my children are 13 and 9. It is a time each child feels they can open up freely with me without their sibling around. It is during these check-in times that I find out the details in their world like what their current favorite color is (still changes often), if anything is bothering them, when they tell me what they did at school, what their favorite subject was that day, what they did during free time at school, what books they want to read next, what movies are on their list to see, details about friendships, etc. No information they provide me is too big or too small. It is what is on their hearts and minds at that particular time.
The other great thing about Check-In time is the fact that they often ask me a lot of questions and feel safe doing so. It is a back-and-forth conversation; a life skill that is essential. They want to know about my day, how I am feeling, if there is anything I need to check-in about, etc. It has allowed for great dialogue and is providing a foundation for good communication and openness for years to come; nothing is off the table to talk about. It is my hope that my children know they can come to me anytime when they need or want to talk and I will listen with an open mind and non-judgmental heart. Communication is essential to healthy friendships, relationships and overall happiness.
Life is busy, but we should never be too busy to re-connect and Check-In with those we care about. We have to take time to make time. ~ Amy Svensson MA, CCC-SLP
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