PARENT PROMPT: Do you remember when…

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

WHAT: Tie your child’s personal experiences to something they are reading or seeing by asking them the question, “do you remember…?” For example, if you are reading a book about a child who can’t sleep because he is afraid of the dark, ask your child about the time when she couldn’t sleep or was afraid of something. You can do this when you observe people as well. If you see someone excited over something, remind your child about a time she was excited about something. Extend the conversation beyond just the memory by talking about how he felt in that moment. And if the memory is related to something that happened, perhaps a challenge, you and your child can talk about how they were able to solve the problem, or even brainstorm ways that the person you’re watching could do something. An example could be you see someone struggling with carrying a couple of heavy boxes; ask your child something like, “do you remember when you tried to carry too many toys down the stairs? What happened to you? And what could that person over there to make his walk a little easier?”

Just start with “do you remember when…” and then let the conversation follow!

WHERE: You can really use this tool whenever and wherever. If you’re killing time while waiting, when there is a lull in a conversation. But it’s really great if you can ask this question when you see something that can connect to a child’s specific memory. This is also a really powerful question to ask when you are reading together. If you can find an opportunity to make the connection to what’s on the page and something that has happened in your child’s life, the reading experience becomes so much more impactful.

WHO: This is a great question for a child of any age. With younger kids, it helps them gain a richer understanding of how the world works, as they see the connections between their personal experience to what they are reading about or seeing. Older children – yes, even your surly pre-teen – will be able to enjoy a more sophisticated conversation, but will also (perhaps secretively!) appreciate the shared memory… and the moment of connection between you and her.

WHY: Memory is a powerful function of learning. Of course, you need to remember facts, figures, and certain processes, like how to write a topic sentence. Remember what is needed to accomplish the task at hand is what is called working memory. Talking through a memory not only hones this skill, but it also helps a child make sense of their world; leading them to understand, and maybe even question, how things are connected, which is the essence of critical thinking.

Talking about memories is also great way to help your child understand emotions better – both theirs and those of other people. Being able to describe how you felt in the past about something, can actually help with managing feelings in the present. They can be reminded of how they worked through a moment of overwhelm (or even joy) and that can strengthen their confidence in the ability to handle a similar experience. Additionally, seeing the connection between how you feel/felt and how someone else might be feeling, plants the seeds for empathy and understanding.


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