On the Menu: Talking About Things
For Ages: 4 and up
Things. The more of them the better -- Pokemon cards, CD's, fashionable clothes. It's vital that children learn to distinguish between the things the media tells them they should own and things that possess enduring value and meaning. You can help your kids recognize what's truly important by asking them the following questions:
The Words You Need
The Words: "If our home were about to be destroyed by fire, and you could save just one thing, what would it be? Why?"
The Reason: "This question will trigger a discussion of which possessions are just things and which ones are precious and irreplaceable. Your kids will be compelled to inventory their own and the family's things and attach degrees of meaning.
The Words: "If you could give any gift to anyone in the world, what would it be and who would receive this gift?"
The Reason: This question taps into your children's natural spirit of generosity, kindness, and compassion. It turns all things into potential gifts, encouraging your kids to focus on how good it feels to give to others.
The Words: "If you could invent something, what would it be? What would it do?"
The Reason: This question asks kids to evaluate how necessity and creativity can lead to the invention of some wondrous things. Their inventions might be very imaginative, hysterically funny, or downright ingenious.
The Words: "If you were alone on an island for one year and could take only one book to read, one song to hear, and one photograph to look at, what would they be and why?"
The Reason: Some things have continuing value and importance to us. We want to read them, hear them, and see them again and again. Pausing to think about why these particular things have such lasting meaning might reveal what your children hold dear and what lifts their spirits.
Beyond the Rap
As in all family discussions, be prepared to volunteer your own answers to these questions and to answer your kids' follow-up questions. This discussion naturally could lead to talking about what your children value most -- beyond things. It's a good way to check out how "shared" your family values really are.