It all started 2 years ago when Hannah was upset about something that happened at school. The conversation started at the dinner table. We typically will ask the kids, “What is one good thing that happened today? What is one bad, frustrating, embarrassing or sad thing that happened today?” Each child gets a turn to share. Some days they have many things to share, other times it is hard for them to come up with something. But they each get a chance to talk.
One night last year when it was Hannah’s turn, she froze and refused to tell us what bad thing happened. (She was in first grade at the time.) The more we pressed the more adamant she became that she was not going to talk. After trying to get her to share a couple of more times we let it lie since it obviously was really bothering her and we didn’t feel like it was necessary to make her share in front of her siblings. After supper I took Hannah into the living room and asked her again what had happened. She immediately burst into tears and refused to tell me the story. I explained that she could tell me anything, but she kept begging me not to make her tell. In that moment I as a mom had to make a decision. Do I make her tell or do I let her keep it a secret? I am sure that there are times for both but I knew in my heart this was one time that I needed to push through and make her tell.
I took her up to my bedroom and we sat on my bed. I started the conversation by telling her that I love her and will always love her no matter what. I explained that the awesome thing about having a mother/daughter relationship is that we get to talk about anything and everything. I am there to help her make decisions and help her know what to do. I explained to her that we were going to start a new thing that would be just between her and I. Anytime she wanted, she could tell me that she wanted a “Special Date on my bed” and then the two of us would go up to the privacy of my room and talk. I went on to explain that when we had those dates she would not get in trouble but we would discuss the situation and I would help her figure out what to do. Then if she had made a mistake the next time she would get in trouble since we had already talked about it. I reassured her that this was a safe place and she could always talk with me.
After she thought about it she made the decision to tell me what had happened. After many LONG pauses she finally got the story out. Thankfully it was very manageable. Basically they were playing a game at school and one of the kids guarding the fort said something that she didn’t understand. She had no idea what the phrase meant and therefore was embarrassed. She thought it was probably a bad word. After I explained what the other kid meant, she was relieved that it wasn’t bad and that she knew what to do the next time they played that game.
This was an amazing moment where I really connected with my daughter. It set a precedent that we still carry out to this day. There will be weeks were we have talks almost daily, and then there will be several weeks that go by that we don’t have any. But the important thing is Hannah always knows that she can ask for it.
Now I will tell you that if you are going to do this with your daughter then it is important that you work on your poker face! Things that seem like the end of the world to them will make you want to roll over and laugh. Make sure you don’t! This would deter her from sharing anything else. It is also important to not move directly into lecture mode when she starts sharing. Especially when she explains her frustrations with you. There have been times when she has informed me that she thought I was being crabby in a certain situation. Talk about needing a poker face! It took everything in me (and probably God intervening for me) not to explain to her in great detail how her and her siblings had caused me to be crabby! But instead I was humble and asked for forgiveness.
Moms, it is so important to establish this line of communication when they are young. They are still innocent enough that they don’t have much to hide from you and they crave your wisdom and reassurance. I pray that because we started this “Special Date” when the girls were in kindergarten that as they get older they will always feel comfortable coming to me and talking about anything.
Having ‘special dates on Mom’s bed’ is what worked for us. Do you have any suggestions, or similar stories? We’d love to hear them.
PS: This story was about moms and daughters, but I feel it is just as important for Dads to give their sons this opportunity too. I know it isn’t always easy for men to communicate about feelings, but just think about the lessons in leadership, life, spirituality, and sportsmanship that can occur if you watch for your chance. These conversations don’t have to be on a bed but can be driving to school or while throwing a ball back and forth. It may be awkward at first but you will be thankful in the end for the chance to speak into your child’s life at such a formative time. Stay tuned as Luke gets older…