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Back When I Walked With Dinosaurs

If you're a parent, you understand this title. Having conversations with our kids about our past builds respect and understanding. But beyond that, there is a greater purpose.

Tell me again, what was it like?

Every once in a while, I get this question from my kids. More specifically, they are asking about what it was like to grow up when I was a child or teenager. You know, because I walked with the dinosaurs.

Ok, I’ll give them some credit—they’ve been aware for quite some time that I did not, in fact, walk with dinosaurs.

But yet, this question still comes up. And I always lean into these conversations. On its face, it’s fun to drift back into a time when there were no cell phones, no internet, no GPS, no caller ID, no streaming, and on and on. Each time these conversations rise again, I will usually remember a little nugget I hadn’t mentioned before. I readily admit, I relish the moment to remember those little things we tend to have forgotten—Lisa Frank folders, slap bracelets, the Sears Christmas catalogue.

Sure, it’s fun seeing them try to imagine a life without all the tools they have come to take for granted. But what I truly treasure is what inevitably comes at the end of these extensive conversations that cover everything from mixtapes to Blockbuster.

Can you guess?

They say they would have liked to have experienced living in that era.

Jaw-dropping, right?

The first time they said it, it caught me completely unaware. “Come again—you would volunteer to see what it was like back then?”

But then again, their response was not all that radical.

There is a deeper context to these conversations beyond nostalgia and imagination. These discussions provide an avenue for understanding, contextualizing, and gathering information to form their own opinions about the past and the future. They build one on top of the other. What starts as light-hearted veers into the real. They open up if you provide an open, honest, and nonjudgmental forum—consistently.

Keep conversations going with your kids throughout their journey from preschool to high school and beyond.

Will it always be easy—no. Will they always want to talk—no.

So let’s talk about strategy.

Are you getting the responses ‘good’ and ‘fine?’ Of course you are, and if you haven’t yet—don’t worry, you will eventually. <Cue dark laughter.> Start by only asking open-ended questions. Instead of “How was your day?” ask “Tell me why (blank) is your favorite class.”

Is the timing proving difficult? Meet them on their own turf. Have a dinner with just you and them (at their favorite place of course). Also, the moment they get home from school is never the best time to have a real discussion—I mean, are you usually aching to have an in-depth conversation the moment you get home from a full day of work? Not likely.

Do you understand their struggles? Some are new and others are as old as time. Share your life experiences without sugar coating it. Share your mistakes as frequently as the things you got right. Explain the why. As parents, you will be tested (boy will you!), and sometimes you have to just tell it like it is. But always circle back to explaining the why. They may not like it or agree with it, but at the end of the day they will know that you are always on their side.

Find a way to make learning fun. Whether they struggle or are in the gifted program, if learning is fun it will be a lifetime pursuit. Learning does not solely exist in being tied to a book. It exists in museums, antique stores, nature, parks, volunteer work. It exists in getting to know your neighbor and having empathy.

You see, these conversations are not just about making your relationship better.

It’s about making the world better.

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Charlotte A. Cason
Charlotte A. Cason
Apr 30, 2023

Excellent article and advice. Children need to be heard and listened to.

Holly Bills
Holly Bills
May 09, 2023
Replying to

Yes, they have wisdom if we take the time to truly listen.

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