Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly Interviews/Mentor Meetings with Children

Successful sales teams have meetings, executives have meetings, coaches have meetings, church leaders have meetings, teachers have meetings.  So why don't we have individual meetings in families?

Weekly Interviews (as we call them) or Mentor Meetings (as many of my friends call them) are an opportunity to connect with each of your children on a weekly basis. This concept comes from the book "Counseling with Our Councils" by M. Russell Ballard.  The book was recently brought back into print by Deseret Book (hooray!).  What you cover in these meetings is up to you and the FEC (we'll cover that in another post).  The academic mentoring meeting is covered in a book called "A Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver DeMille.  

Here are a few tips while you find your own structure:
Interviews can include:
-weekly/monthly calendaring (including child's requests to attend or begin activities/events).
-review of school goals and work for the week, as well as review and report of previous week
-social/behavioral concerns at home, school, or work
-time to answer "private" questions that would not be appropriate for the child to ask in front of others
-birthday planning
-gift-giving helps
-budgeting strategies and planning
-life-skill coaching
-Scout/Personal Progress/Faith in God/Duty to God tracking and progress
-goal setting (this is SO important)
-and much, much more! 

This looks WAY heavy and serious, but it doesn't need to be!  We do our interviews in our jammies on our big bed.  We invite each child in one at a time (we have 7 children so this takes pretty much all day Sunday) and begin with a prayer.  I have the family calendar and my interview notebook out on the bed to refer to (with a pencil).  My younger ones climb up on my lap and snuggle me (or lay on Daddy's back).  My older children bring their school planner with them, and usually want a back scratch or foot rub as we chat.  We make sure at least one parent is looking into the child's eyes throughout the interview.  The eyes are the windows to the soul, and looking into your child's eyes while you talk can help you discern if there are problems that the child is not verbalizing.
Then we ask these questions (and we just listen and encourage):
"What was the best part of your week?"
"What was the hardest part of your week?"
"What do you think is the most important thing to work on this week?"
"Do you have any calendar items you want to be considered for our calendar?"
"Tell me about school.  What went well last week?  What do you need help with?  What are you working on this week?"
"Do you have any questions for us?"
"Is there anything else you want to tell us?"
"Do you know we love you?"
"How do you know we love you?" (the answer to this question is a weekly check-in for the Five Love Languages).

There is a lot of wiggling and moving around, and that's ok.  Since we're talking about the child, the child stays very long as the child is doing the talking.  We try to limit our input to praise or very specific instruction so the child feels validated and supported.  This is a safe place to discuss ANYTHING.  That means that sometimes some yucky junk surfaces (especially with our adopted children who have experienced trauma and lots of nasty stuff), and we have learned to keep a poker face and make simple, sincere statements like, "I'm so sorry that happened.  That is so hard."  Freaking out or lecturing during an interview will turn the child off.  We work to make this an open and calm place where the child feels safe to share.  We'd rather know what is truly going on in their lives and be connected enough to help them instead of having them feel the need to hide from us.

We work hard to help the child think of his or her own solutions rather than running to the rescue.  Some phrases that can help prevent launching into parent lecture mode are...
"Can I tell you a story?" (insert story of you or someone you know...or a scripture hero who experienced a similar trial).  Then say, "I wonder if you can find a solution like ____ did."  Then just leave silence and let the child connect the story to his or herself.
"May I make a suggestion?"  If the child says no, then just listen.  If the child says yes, then he or she is ready to hear counsel.  Keep it brief and loving.
"What could you do if that happens again?" Listen.  If the child asks for help, keep it brief.  

Then we say a closing prayer and give the child a big sandwich hug.  

Throughout the week, when my children are bombarding me with questions about EVERYTHING (beginning new activities, what friends they can invite over, why his sister is so annoying, etc), I can choose to say, "That's a great question for your interview!"  The child can then choose to write it down and bring the question to the interview. Most of the unimportant questions fall away.  We do have one child whose Love Language is Quality Time, and she brings a list of 15+ items to ask every week (like a filibuster).  And we make time for each one (albeit very short time, but we recognize each one).  Obviously, if it is a question needing coaching immediately, we do it.  But this takes a huge burden off of my shoulders during the week.  It's wonderful to be able to make a short correction or coaching during the week and have the support of my amazing husband as we help the child during his or her interview.  The kids see us unified in our love and support for them.  We stand together as parents, mentors, and guides on their journey.  And that makes it a much more enjoyable journey!

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