The following is a guest post written by Jimmie of Jimmie’s Collage.
Reading to our children is confirmed to be one of the best ways to promote academic success. It builds vocabulary and critical thinking skills not to mention providing a foundation for literacy. We all know that, and most of us do read to our children, especially at bedtime. We have discovered the joy of sharing an adventure novel with our children where the characters almost become part of the family.
But the most important element of bedtime reading isn’t the reading at all. The real treasure that comes from bedtime reading is the communication between you and your child – communication that goes far beyond the shared experience of the plot.
You might be missing this benefit if at the end of the chapter, you shut the book, turn off the light and say goodnight. But if you linger after reading time is done and talk to your child, you know the gift I’m referring to. There is a special closeness that happens as you lie on the bed with the lights dim and all the busyness of the day complete. Those nighttime discussions are precious and life transforming.
My daughter has come to expect our night time talk so much that even if we don’t read together, she will ask me to get on the bed “just to talk.” This habit demonstrates that the lines of communication are staying open with my middle schooler.
So many parents and children, even in homeschooling families, don’t really talk beyond of the practical logistics of life. They don’t dream about the future, share hurts and fears, and problem solve troubling situations.
Of course the time of day doesn’t matter. Your time may be at breakfast or in the afternoon. The point is undivided attention. And that is why bedtime is perfect. Your pajamas are on; the daily tasks are complete. Sleep is the only job ahead of you. Distractions are at a minimum.
If you want to work on your bedtime communication, here are some tips.
1. Ask open ended questions.
You aren’t looking for yes and no answers but a discussion. Ask about feelings. Offer broad openers so that your child has a chance to talk freely.
It might be less threatening to start by talking about the book you’re reading. Then you can shift into more personal matters.
Photo by lancefisher
2. Use wait time.
Don’t be afraid of silence. After you ask an open ended question, give your child time to think and to respond.
Research has shown that wait time increases responses and the length of response. So slowly count to five before you rephrase your question or move to another topic.
3. Listen more than you talk.
We are always teaching our children, telling them what to do and critiquing their performance. Bedtime talk is when you can hear your child’s heart.
Listen a lot and speak little.
4. Be an example.
Be vulnerable enough to share your own dreams and struggles.
Cry and laugh with your child. Obviously, you don’t want to burden your child, but she needs to know that mom is a human who deals with fears too.
Do you have a bedtime ritual that includes times of heart to heart sharing? What do you do to foster that atmosphere?