Everyone has a device of some kind these days. It has become a ubiquitous sight in our modern world. If you look around, you’ll notice that almost no one is engaged in face-to-face conversations anymore. Instead, people are engrossed in their devices, gazing intently into screens or chatting away feverishly. It’s astonishing to see how technology has transformed our daily lives to the point where we are constantly connected, even while driving, walking, or flying through the air. This dependence on devices has reshaped the way we interact and communicate, with virtual conversations often taking precedence over real-world connections.
Having meaningful conversations with children is essential for their emotional and social development. It not only helps them understand their own feelings but also cultivates empathy, analytical skills, and a sense of community. Two simple rules questions, “Will this make me/them feel good?” and “Will this make me/them feel safe?” can be transformative tools in guiding children towards positive actions. In this blog post, we will explore how to use these rules to engage in conversations with students and provide a safe space for them to express their thoughts and emotions.
Core Ideas to Guide You: When initiating conversations with students, it is important to keep the following core ideas in mind:
- Focus on understanding feelings, not admitting wrongdoing: The aim of these conversations is not to label actions as good or bad but to help students understand the connections between their feelings and actions. By articulating these connections, students can begin to strategize and make different choices in the future.
- Meet the student at their level: Avoid preconceived notions and meet students where they are in terms of their understanding and emotions. Encourage them to talk about their starting point regarding the issue being discussed.
- Establish a non-hierarchical environment: Use body language that removes any sense of hierarchy. Sit beside the student instead of across from them, maintain open body language, smile, and speak in a friendly tone. Creating a welcoming atmosphere fosters trust and openness.
- Practice patient listening: Give students ample time to express themselves and think through their emotions. By asking probing questions and allowing longer pauses, you demonstrate respect for their thought process. These conversations may differ from typical adult conversations, so getting comfortable with longer pauses is crucial.
Meeting with a Student for the First Time: When meeting a student for the first time, focus on building trust. Start with conversation starters that revolve around the student’s interests and experiences. Gradually transition into discussing the specific issue at hand. Use open-ended questions that encourage the student to articulate their thoughts and emotions. Allow pauses and give the student space to think before responding.
When a Student Will Not Talk: Sometimes, students may be reluctant or unable to express themselves verbally. In such cases, it is important to be patient and understanding. Recognize that there may be underlying reasons, such as trauma or concerns about trust and loyalty. Assure the student that you are there for them and that you are ready to listen when they are ready to talk. Engage in non-verbal cues that convey your support, such as sitting closer, maintaining open body language, and responding with short affirmations. Understand that the student may need time to process their thoughts and emotions before opening up.
In situations where a student remains unresponsive, it is essential to involve other professionals, such as school counselors or social workers. They can provide additional support and insights into the student’s well-being.
Conversations with children guided by the two simple rules of considering feelings and safety can have a profound impact on their social and emotional growth. By creating a safe and non-judgmental environment, we empower students to develop critical thinking, empathy, and a sense of responsibility towards their community. Remember, these conversations are not about right or wrong; they are about fostering understanding and growth. Through patient listening, open body language, and genuine empathy, we can help children navigate challenges and make choices that promote their well-being and that of others.