What does it mean to “wonder” about a child’s behavior or emotions?

April 25, 2018

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family: The word wonder has a few definitions. We tend to think about the verb form – “To desire or be curious to know something.” At The Wise Family, we talk about “wonder” in our four-part family exploration model – W- Wonder; I- Insight; S- Strategies; E- Expectations. There is another way to look at wonder, however. And that is the noun form – “A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

How can you find something WONDER-FUL today in your family? Let’s wonder about that, and more below –

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Parents want to know the details of their children’s lives to keep them safe and guide them through the world. However, as children grow and develop, they require privacy and independence. “Wondering” what is going on in their lives – and in their heads – can be a full-time job for a parent.

I have some tricks that I am sharing in next week’s blog, but one way of “wondering” that we use in my family is a fun dinnertime ritual. Rituals help bring stability and structure to anything! So maybe at dinner, or the car ride home, everyone shares an “up” and a “down” – something they liked about the day and something less pleasant. Starting this early helps keep the momentum going in the teen years. Or some families do “roses” and “thorns” – same concept, different words. And everyone shares so parents are part of the “wondering” too!

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  As teens become absorbed with technology more, it becomes challenging for parents to effectively communicate with them. Parents often feel the best way to know what is going on with their teen is to follow them on Instagram or Snap Chat, which often is a sacred territory for teens. It is important to remember teens are trying to find a balance between their need for independence and the support of parents.

Parents try to provide a safe, encouraging, and nonjudgmental space for dialogues to occur. Limit the number of questions as that often makes teens feel interrogated. Keep the questions open ended instead of closed to avoid the one word answers. Replace your extra questions with a reflection or summary of what your teen said. When all else fails, just listen because when your teen finally opens up they usually just need someone to listen and not fix.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  When parents are asked what they want most of their kids, the most common reply seems to be that they want their children to be happy. Many parents worry about their children being happy but how do we know if we don’t know what’s going on in their lives!

Parents want to know that their children are safe and sound while kids want to be independent and trusted. When a child does share about his or her day, parents often feel the need to be problem solvers, which to some kids feels like they are being judged. They want to feel that they are competent and able to find a solution on their own. Work on focusing more on listening, less on solutions, and be aware of body language. Even when we aren’t being vocal, we are communicating how we are feeling through shrugs, smiles, and sometimes even eye rolls. Silence often makes us uncomfortable but sometimes it’s hard to verbalize things.

Be patient and give children time rather than rushing to help them answer to avoid sitting in silence. The most important part is to just listen; reflect so they know you are hearing them and then let them talk more.

Kelsey Yeager – Counseling Intern for The Wise Family: Parents are deeply invested in the lives of their children. Sometimes, there is almost a craving for all the details of their lives. And for kids, it is important to know that someone is there and willing to listen.

One thing that parents can do with kids, starting from an early age, is create a special talk time. By giving children the gift of time and talking with them we instill in them the knowledge and belief behind the phrase, “you can talk to me about anything”. This special talk time is a time in which kids can ask questions and voice their opinions, their hopes and dreams, as well as the disappointments of the day, without fear of judgement. For some families this may be dinner together at night or once a week. For others it may be breakfast on Saturday morning. It could simply be the 10 minutes in the car on the way home from school or practice.

By starting this with your children when they are little they will have a foundation built for talking and with you. Having this foundation built will be so helpful as they grow older and the topics get more difficult.

Until next week, Be Wise!