On our counselor job description, one of their duties is to “check in with each camper, every day.” We call these check-in meetings “One-on-Ones.” Counselors ask campers specific, open-ended questions to elicit how campers are feeling. The counselors ask about their friendships, activities, how much they're missing home, what's going well, and if they need help with anything.
These are individual conversations, out of earshot of other kids, that last anywhere from two to five minutes. The campers get accustomed to the check-ins, so they're not surprised when their counselor starts chatting with them.
What's the result of these one-on-one conversations?
Each camper feels seen, heard, and validated each day, and the counselor knows what’s going on with each of their campers and knows how to best support them.
I’ve often marveled how, in our busy, go-go-go family lives, days and weeks can go by without any real one-on-one conversations with our kids that address more than what time soccer practice ends or what homework they still have.
As a simple way to deepen your connection with your kids, and know how you can best support them, try having at least one daily one-on-one chat with each of them, modeled after what camp counselors do:
- Turn off or put away your phone (and have them put theirs away, too).
- Stop doing everything else (cooking, looking at a magazine, etc.).
- Give your child your full attention (eye contact, body turned toward them, not thinking about other things).
- Ask them a few open-ended questions. “Tell me about the best part of your day” is an easy place to start.
Your one-on-one chats can be anytime. You can make it a daily ritual over after-school snack, while sharing a hot drink, or while tucking them in at bedtime, but that small, concerted daily investment of time will lead to a closer connection between you and your kids.
If your kids are already teens, know that the best way to have one-on-one chats is to be open to whenever they initiate talk with you rather than forcing them to be on your schedule. When they talk, drop everything else you're doing, focus on them, and listen!