If your family is anything like mine, y’all are busy. You’re busy. And tired. And sometimes, we just don’t have the mental or emotional energy to put into truly connecting with our children and spouse. I get it. By the time my kids are off of school, I am drained. I love them dearly, but interaction seems so daunting at the end of a long day (and that’s still with dinner and homework yet to come). After a full day of school, they’re drained, too. They don’t usually jump in the car eager to talk about their day. And that’s precisely why I came up with our little routine.
The Pow Wow
Let me back up. I used to teach high school, and in an effort to connect with my students, we would have a Pow Wow once a week. Each person had to jot down their Pow (one negative thing weighing on their mind) and their Wow (one positive thing about their life at that moment). Anyone who wanted to share could do so. After a few weeks of this, almost everyone became comfortable regularly sharing. In total, it took less than five minutes of class time once a week, but I gained so much valuable insight into my students’ lives outside of my classroom.
How was school?
And so, if I could do this with my own students, why not carry it over to my family? For over a year now, we’ve done this everyday, typically in the car on the way home from school. It beats the generic, lifeless one-word responses to the tired “How was your day?” and helps me gain meaningful information. We keep it quick, and I rarely push for more; however, this is sometimes when I learn about serious situations that need addressing. And that’s the beauty of the Pow Wow: it can be as light or heavy as it needs to be while keeping the lines of communication open.
Now, let’s take it one step further. My husband and I spend a lot of time together, go on regular dates, and generally communicate well. We are equal partners in the daily operation of our household. Why, then, have I been feeling so disconnected from him? We spend more time together than most couples, so how is it possible that we’re out of sync? Because togetherness does not equal connectedness, that’s how. So we started utilizing a check-in system recently. There are more layers to it, but we hope it will have the same positive effect as the Pow Wow. Here’s how it works:
- An affirmation: Just a quick, positive statement that is true about the other person. I told him what a great nurse he is.
- Sharing from the day: Anything that happened today. I told him how I’d run into a friend and her husband in the grocery and how we need to grab dinner with them soon.
- Something on your radar: Maybe a hope or concern. He let me know that he’s nervous about starting his new job.
- Request: Something we need the other person to do for us. I told him that I really need him to do a better job of cleaning his little beard hairs off the sink.
We call this a check-in and not a conversation because it is meant to be just that: a check-in. Just a quick, convenient, deliberate way to connect. If something happens to come up in the check-in, we can address it later, but it’s really just meant to be informal and informative. It is our hope that with consistent use of the check-in, we will strengthen our bond.
As parents, it is so easy to go through the motions day in and day out. It’s hard to carve out that time to truly be there for one another. But it’s so, so important, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. I’ve seen these little conversations have a big impact in my classroom and with my children, and now I look forward to the same results in my marriage.