What do kids choose to share about their friendships, camp experiences, time at school, and other life experiences?
Sometimes, not much.
An activity we do during nightly campfires at camp is an excellent way to get kids to share, and it’s also an easy family sharing habit that leads to better communication and connection.
Highs and Lows
An activity many call “High & Lows” has morphed into additional sharing practices, including:
High, Low, Buffalo
High, Low, Hero
High, Low, Whoa, & Bro
It’s very simple: Each person has a turn (uninterrupted, with everyone focused on them) to share:
• The HIGH point of their day.
• The LOW point of their day.
• And, optionally:
A “buffalo” or “whoa” – random fact or thing that happened
A “hero” or “bro” – someone who did something nice for them
Since we want our kids to talk with us about both positive and negative events in their lives, this can be an excellent communication and connection exercise. For children who don’t normally share their struggles, it can help them open up. And for those who don’t naturally focus on the positive things in life, the practice can help them to see more good in their days.
What Kids Share
After camp, many kids immediately share about their accomplishments (“I got up on water skis!”). Others focus on a negative interaction with another camper (“Johnny wouldn’t play the card game I wanted to play”).
Why do some kids focus more on the positive camp events and others more on the negative ones? It’s likely at least partially due to established communication patterns and what their parents ask about and focus on.
Some kids seem to connect with their parents more through discussing negative events, complaining, and sharing the “drama” in their lives. The pattern seems to be that the child communicates about negative events (mean kids, criticism of their teacher, etc.), and the parent gives a lot of attention and support to the issue. Perhaps this habit develops over time, as the child finds that reporting negative events is a good way to get attention. Or, perhaps the child was born with more of a “glass half empty” nature.
In Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and Catherine O’Neil’s book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies, they caution parents against the practice of “Interviewing for Pain:”
I believe that we live the story we tell ourselves–and others–about the life we’re leading…If you constantly interview your child for pain, your child may begin to hear a story of social suffering emerge from her own mouth. Soon she will begin to believe it and will see herself as a victim….Please understand that I am not advising you to disbelieve our children, nor am I saying that you should not be empathic…But…don’t interview for pain, don’t nurture resentments, and don’t hold on to ancient history. Kids don’t.
Whether your child leans towards sharing the positive or the negative in their life, sharing their highs and lows of each day will help you get a more balanced picture of how they’re doing.
In my family, we’ve always shared our highs and lows at family dinner, but you can find any time that works best for your family! Even now that my kids are adults and we are rarely all together around one table, when we are together, we always take a few minutes to share our highs and lows. Lots of great stories come out, and we end up laughing, giving advice, and just feeling connected. People get interrupted, long stories get shared, and we have to refocus a lot, but that’s okay. We’re connecting with each other, sharing, and finding out what’s going on in each others’ lives.
Try sharing Highs and Lows in your family, and see if you can get your kids to share the ups and downs of their days, their weeks, and their lives!
Like this tip? My book – Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults – is chock full of research-backed strategies for connecting with our kids and cultivating character traits (like optimism!) that help them thrive now and later in life.