Monday, August 30, 2010

Finding Common Ground

How well do you know your kids? Of course you know them. But do you know what they're "into"? Do you know what they and their friends think is cool? Do you know what's not? What music do they listen to? What are the names of their favorite bands? What television shows do they never miss? What online games do they spend way too much time playing? How do they personalize what belongs to them? What is their online screenname? What profile pic do they post to represent themselves? The answers to these questions at the very least can give you a glimpse into the world they live in - outside of the one you live in with them.

Parents and teachers alike need to be in touch with what influences are shaping the personalities of children. If  they are in middle school, these influences may change minute by minute and may be at the whim of popular culture more than any other age. Staying current and being in touch goes a long way to building relationships with kids in a way that they feel accepted and safe.

My 6th graders were really into Silly Bandz last year. Realizing that this age is always on the hunt for something to collect, I started buying them whenever they were on sale. At Christmas and at the school I surprised them each with a couple of these colorful shapes to snake their wrists. Prior to this gifting, I wore a Silly Bandz to school. Once noticed, word spread that Mrs. Caruana wears Silly Bandz! I couldn't have been cooler to them at that point.

What this did was provide common ground. They knew I paid attention to what mattered to them (as "silly" as it seems). That attention made it safe for them to be themselves, knowing they'd be accepted. This is HUGE for kids of any age.

And it doesn't end there. My own children are 19 and 21 years old and in college. They think zombies are the coolest things. They play video games with zombies in them, watch movies with zombies in them, and read books like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" or "The Zombie Survival Guide." They play "Humans vs. Zombies" on their college campuses (a zombie game of tag on a huge scale). So it didn't hurt that I posted pictures of myself and their dad dressed as zombies from a Halloween years ago when I was pregnant! How many other parents can document that? Find ways to connect with kids on their level, with their interests and you will find common ground - but hopefully not zombies!