This Sunday, May 5 takes place Canada’s largest event supporting child and youth mental health and well-being – a “Walk So Kids Can Talk” – and you can do so whether in one of their many locations across Canada or even – so innovative – by “walking” virtually!
Getting kids to talk about what they dream or worry about is not easy. How many of you can relate to the experience of asking “So what happened at school today?” and getting in exchange “Nothing” or even just a head shake?
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist, recommends asking more specific questions such as “What was the best thing about school today?,” “Do the kids at school ever talk about boyfriends and girlfriends?,” “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” or“How did the soccer game go at recess?”. Her blog post is full of other great suggestions.
One sure way of getting kids to talk is to engage them on an activity – whether walking in the park, driving somewhere, working on a project or in the garden – and just commit to listening. This could be called “How to listen so kids will talk”. When not focusing on conversation, words often spontaneously come to them, and if not interrupted or judged, so many observations, questions and descriptions start pouring out of them.
The other way I have come to love is something we discovered at the front of the popular Thea Stilton Sisters kids books series, the five super friends of the adventurous cousin of Geronimo Stilton: the five main characters had a card describing their secret likes, their qualities and weaknesses, their secret powers, dreams and passions. Then a page followed inviting the owner of the book to fill in their own, which my kids did. Surprising, charming and fascinating, out came ideas I had no idea they had!
Whatever the method, kids need to have a chance to share their thinking and feelings – connect especially to a grown up who can help them celebrate their originality or get the necessary perspective.
Sometimes, even someone who they have never met and will never meet, but available to listen just when they need to speak, can save their dreams and lives. So this Sunday – be it in person or virtually, consider walking so kids can keep talking.