“Top conversations to have with your kids”
SEATTLE — Kids don’t have instruction manuals, so a longtime nurse at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital came up with her top ten list of conversations every parent should have with their child.
As a children’s nurse, Julie Metzger has spent decades talking to families about puberty and sexuality. It’s advice she’s now summed up in a 200-minute talk for parents.
Since it’s hard to put all 200 minutes here, we asked Metzger to give us her top four questions.
The first question is the one she’s asked most often by tweens.
“Am I OK?”
She says from first grade to 12th grade, kids constantly need to be reassured that the overwhelming changes they’re experiencing are normal. “We don’t ever get to cross that off our list. I just answer, ‘ Yes, you are OK’ because it’s something we can engage with our kids around the morning, afternoon and the evening. Being a listener to what might be on their mind around that,” said Metzger.
Her next favorite conversation starter is “How do I fit in?” Meaning, how can parents help children fit in to their social circles?
For example, she says instead of just asking your child, ‘Did you do your homework?’ you should also ask ‘Who’d you sit with at lunch today?’”
“It’s being a listener and prompting around social life verses the work at school. There can be a balance there,” said Metzger.
Third on her list is ‘Why not?’ In other words, decision-making. That skill can be the hardest concept for anxious parents to grasp. If you really want your children to succeed, you have to let them make their own decisions even if that sometimes means letting them fail. It starts with something as simple as letting a preschooler decide what to wear.
“As they get older, if you’ve laid this foundation of giving them practice around this whole cycle of decision-making, then hopefully your goal is, ‘You’re off. Go do this. You’ve had practice at it under my watch,’” said Metzger.
Next is what she considers the most important conversation of all between parents and kids. ‘Can you hear me?’ or rather, ‘Are you listening?’ “Learning how to be an empathetic listener. Learning how to learn from our children. Getting answers that may not feel as what we had expected and learning how to stay close while also standing back as they make decisions from us,” said Metzger. She says parents are good at asking questions but not always so good at listening and the secret to a great conversation is great listening.
Instead of having one 200 minute talk with your kids, Metzger says envision having 200 one minute talks over the years.