Everyday Family Rituals is a new series I’m putting together. The intention of this series is just to share some of the things we do in our family to stay connected (when we can). We’re far from perfect, but we’re pretty tight-knit for being such a big family.
As my first entry in this prolific series of invaluable parenting guidance and infallible advice, I’ll outline one of the things we do almost every day, and that’s talking about our day. I don’t care if you put your own spin on this, but we’ve found it’s a great way to stay connected and check in with one another. Plus, since sarcasm is essentially our native language, it usually results in a few laughs. And if you’re a father worth your salt, you know how much value these conversations can bring—they can even help children become better men and women.
Talk About Your Day
One of the best ways to stay connected with your family is to take a few minutes every day and discuss each other’s days. It provides some insight into what they’re going through or is excited for, opens the door for some connection and empathy, and almost always leads to a couple of good laughs. It can even be a great way for family members to pick each other up when they’re feeling a little down.
There are a couple of ways to do this: 30 Seconds or Rose and Thorn. We like to do this at the dinner table, but not every family is able to sit down and eat together. You might have to do it in the car on the way to practice, during a commercial break, or forcing everyone to sit down in the living room for 5 minutes.
If you have exceedingly chatty kids, you can probably just ask them about their day. But, you need to keep them on track or they’ll run off on tangents and never really tell you what happened today. The best way to get chatty kids to tell you about their day is to do 30 Seconds.
It’s probably pretty obvious, but 30 Seconds means they have half a minute to tell you as much about their day as possible. They can squeeze in as many details as possible and tell you everything that happened, or they can focus on the most exciting part of their day and run on about that. After 30 seconds is up, they can finish the last thing they’re saying, and then it’s time for questions.
Keep the questions on task, too. Each person in the family gets 30 seconds to ask a question (but they can do it less), and the original speaker gets 30 seconds to answer. If everyone follows the rules (keep ‘em loose), the family gets a prize like 15 extra minutes before bed or a special snack. Whatever motivates your kids works.Asking questions keeps everyone engaged and can make the whole experience a lot of fun. Listen to the details to make sure your kid knows you’re listening. If you need a watch to track that 30-second window, this guide on the types of watches will point you in the right direction.
Rose and Thorn
If it’s hard to drag much out of your kids (it gets tougher as they get older, trust me), there’s another method to get them to talk about their day. It’s called Rose and Thorn. It’s pretty simple, doesn’t apply a lot of pressure, and there aren’t any time limits or buzzers to beat.
Rose and Thorn is simple. You go around the family and each person talks about their Rose and their Thorn. Their Rose is the best part of their day, and the Thorn is the part of the day they liked the least. Each person gets as much or as little time as possible to share. Then, they get to choose a family member to pass it to.
Rose and Thorn continues until everyone has had a chance to go. Make sure to keep it loose enough that there is room for dialogue or questions. Don’t just bounce person to person to get it done. If someone can’t answer a question, then their Rose or Thorn wasn’t all that good, and they might have to go again.
Here’s the thing: If the family all agrees that someone was just mailing it in with their Rose and Thorn, they can veto and make the person go again. For instance, we have one kid who routinely tells us her Rose is “this meal.” Get outta here with that. She always has to go back to the drawing board and pick something new.
The other rule is no one in the family can be someone’s Thorn. Even if her little brother annoyed the hell out of her today, we don’t accept Thorns related to other people in the family. It keeps the arguing to a minimum. Now, if someone at school pissed them off, hey, go for it. But not someone else in our immediate family.
Once everyone goes, break out a snack or a game or something simple that keeps everyone involved.
If you’re looking for new Everyday Family Rituals, give talking about your day a shot. You’ll be able to keep track of the things your kids are experiencing and share your day with them. Everyone gets to be in the spotlight for a few minutes and feel like their family is listening. You’ll only get so long before your kids tell you to go scratch any time you ask about their day, so do it as much as possible for as long as you can.