The Three Questions to Ask Kids after Practice

It’s the season for sports and music and art classes. Back to School is in full swing and kids’ schedules are getting busier and busier. With that, comes more opportunity for good conversations and memorable storytelling that improve kids’ confidence and strengthen your bond.

Here’s a rundown of how to create those kinds of conversations, starting with a reminder to carve out time to talk to kids about their experiences, motivations, and emotions. When we are shuffling from activity to activity while trying to meet our own deadlines, finding time and space to have those conversations is hard.

Remember, it doesn’t take a long time to have a good conversation. Grab your moments and be intentional.

Start by asking these three questions when you pick up your kids from their next soccer practice or orchestra rehearsal.

What was the best part?

Focus on the positive. Asking your child to identify the best part of soccer practice encourages her to look for positive experiences, even if (especially if) the practice didn't go as smoothly as she wanted, or didn't live up to her expectations.

Photo by  Jeffrey Lin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeffrey Lin on Unsplash

Taking a moment to assess an experience and find the good in it helps your child practice balance, gratitude and hopefulness. When you encourage your child to do this through conversation, you are helping them through the process and reminding them that they are not alone – you are there with them to celebrate and to support.

 “What was the best part” is the perfect first question because it gives your child something to celebrate, something good to share with you. It goes a long way to creating a safe, comfortable space for kids to talk to and connect with you.

Asking your child to share the best part of orchestra or soccer practice gives them a launch pad for a story and a path for a meaningful conversation. It gives you a glimpse into what matters to them, and what they value. This is the heart of real conversations. And it often makes for a great story!

How do you think you played?

This second question moves into the topics that are more difficult for your kids to talk about, but even more necessary for you to dig into together.

Be careful how you frame this question. If kids feel like they are being interrogated or judged, they shut down. Your conversation, your relationship, and their confidence suffer. 

This doesn't mean that kids don't want to share their challenges with parents - they do - but they want to do so in a way that does not make them feel more judged, or more embarrassed, than they may already feel. Sometimes your child leaves practice feeling vulnerable. If she ran into another player because the coach said "go right" and she went left, she may have been hurt, and she may have been laughed at. Don’t compound her negative feelings about herself or the situation. Let her take the lead in explaining the experience from her point of view and walk through how to address it together, carefully and respectfully.

Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash

“How do you think you played” creates space for kids to communicate. It signals that you are interested in how they are playing because you care about them, and you care about the things that matter to them. You are not looking for a scouting report. Their answers don’t change how much you love them or how proud of them you are.

Everyone wants to get better - that's why they practice. Let your child know that you are not asking these questions because you want to see immediate results. He does not need to master every note in his orchestra piece today. You are engaged in the learning process, warts and all. You are present for their stories and you are ready to help them achieve their goals.

Part of achieving those goals is discovering what they need to work on. That’s why “how do you think you played” is a good way to help kids evaluate where they are and where they want to be without judgement or pressure. It is much more productive – for your conversation and for their development – than “what did you do wrong” or “why was the conductor yelling at you.”

It also gives you, as a parent, the opportunity to share your own stories. Kids love to hear about what parents were like when we were their age. If you can share an embarrassing story, or an example of how you faced a challenge, your child feels less alone and more encouraged. Remember, when you are sharing your stories, this is not the time to take over the conversation, to air out old grievances, or to show off. Let your child take the lead.

What are you looking forward to next time?

Look-ahead questions create interesting and honest conversations. When you ask your child what she is looking forward to next time, you are encouraging her to move on from disappointments and build on successes. And you are doing that without commanding her to “move on” or “work harder.”

Photo by  Fede Casanova  on  Unsplash

Even more importantly, a look-ahead question like this signals to your kids that you are with them for the long haul. You did not start this conversation so that they could deliver you a report that you can file away. You did not ask them to open up to you simply to fill the time on the way home. You are engaged with them and supportive of them. You are in this together.

Every question you ask your children is an opening for them to share their stories, to build their confidence, and to strengthen your bond comfortably and safely.

This is a busy season. We – parents and kids – too often feel like we are rushing through our lives, never taking time to look back, to look forward, or to be present in the moment with each other. Taking even a small amount of time to have an intentional conversation with each other slows everything down just enough so that we don’t miss these precious moments and we don’t rush through opportunities to connect with each other and celebrate each other.

Ask your child these questions. You’ll still make it to your next activity on time.

- Elizabeth Eames, September 2018

Elizabeth Eames is a professional communicator, a parent, and a member of the Portraits that Move Team.

Getting Back on the Bike and a New School Year

While on my summer vacation, I decided to do something I had not done in over twenty years. I rode a bicycle.

I am not sure why I ever stopped riding, I loved it as a kid and often rode throughout my suburban neighborhood. It became one of those things where, the longer I went without doing it, the more fearful I became. I am not clear on what I was afraid of exactly. It was not an active pervasive fear, more like something I just did not think of doing.

back to school bike ride

In any case, I LOVED IT!!!!  The joy I felt in the freedom of coasting with the wind in my hair was immense. I felt like a ten-year-old again. It made me want to buy a bike and to spend more time feeling that freedom. I giggled and the satisfaction of overcoming my worries was powerful.

It also got me thinking about other fears that are subtle. And transitions. This time of year there are plenty of both for our children and for us. Our children may have anxieties about new grades, homework and routines. And if we are being honest, we likely have our own anxieties. How will it all go? Will the new schedule work?  Will the re-connection with friends be smooth? Perhaps we have anxieties about our children growing up too fast. I certainly do.

bike path back to school

We need to push through these fears, to ignore them and release them. We need to get back on our own bikes of freedom and enjoy the moment. Be present, share in the joy, be fearless. It will be worth it for them and for us.

I wish you all immense ease with the beginnings and transitions of this academic year. And if you need me, I’ll be on the bike path giggling with my son. 

What's in a Name: Why We Are Portraits that MOVE

We took care in coming up with the name for our documentary style family film business, and Portraits that Move is just right.  

Of course, there is the obvious - our portraits of your babies and your children reveal who they are in ways that photography, baby books and memory journals can't.  Because we are filmmakers, we are able to give you the gift of your children dancing, singing, telling their favorite stories, and moving through their space as it is, and as they are right now.

portraits that move filmmakers

 

But there is something more about this idea of moving.  As parents, as families, we are always moving.  Even when we stop to savor the moment, we are aware that these moments are as fleeting as they are wonderful.

As we enjoy the last days of summer, the family time, the adventures, and the discoveries they bring, we understand that we can't stop.  We can't stop our children from growing and changing.  We can't stop the summer from turning into fall and the learning and growth it will bring.  And we would never want to.

back to school video portraits that move

But we can be present in these moments.  We can help you gather them, preserve them, and celebrate them, season after season, change after change.

Brooklyn Author Mallory Kasdan: Our Kids Teach Us About Beauty, Kindness and Community

We are thrilled to have Mallory Kasdan, Brooklyn mom and author of the popular (and hilarious!) children's book Ella, join us today as a Portraits that Move guest blogger.

Mallory's post, which first appeared on her blog, shows how our children teach us curiosity, joy, gratitude and friendship every day, just by being who they are.

Read More

Back to School Help: A Safe Space for Everything Kids Are Feeling

This week marks the beginning of a new school year in New York and with it comes much excitement. I know my son will be thrilled to reunite with his friends, many of whom have been away most of the summer.  It is a time of new beginnings, new teachers, new school supplies, new sneakers.  There is a rush, some anticipation, a jolt of energy that comes with the back to school season.

And it is not only this way for the kids. As parents, we get excited for the year of learning ahead.  We welcome the routines and we are on the edge of our seats, hoping the transition will go smoothly and be full of ease for everyone involved.

Most of all, we cannot believe the time has flown by - they are starting kindergarten, third grade, high school. How could it be possible? They need to feel both our confidence and our questions. In feeling both, we stay connected to them, united, and close.

back to school help manage transitions talk to kids about feelings new school year


It is important to create space to welcome all of the elements of the back to school transition - the fun parts and the challenges. Getting older is hard for everyone and we need to let our children know that all of their feelings make sense, that we, in fact, have and have had the same sorts of feelings.

There is an opportunity here for parents to let our children know that the spectrum of our feelings is healthy. We can feel confident and have excitement. We can trust, yet wonder.

We are in it together with them and even though we are not the ones starting school, the renewal is so for all of us.