During our Gathering, before the Opening of the meeting we sometimes have colouring sheets or little games for the girls go play. Lately, however, I’ve found our Sparks have a lot they want to talk about, so I find myself just inviting them onto the carpet to sit down and just have a little chat about what’s going on in our lives.
I find it helpful to ask some direct questions, so each girl who joins gets a chance to tell me something. If you’ve worked with this age group before, you know how one articulate child can dominate the entire group with a story about how her grandpa likes cats, or how she had a dream once about pudding cups making her was the dishes in a weather room filled with laughing balloons (true story!).
Here are some of the conversation starts I’ve been using to get the girls sharing:
- What did you learn this week outside of school?
- What would you like to become better at?
- What challenge or problem have you worked on this week?
- Can you think of a mistake you made this week?…Great! What did you learn?
- How did you help someone this week?
- Is there anything you struggled with this week? …Cool! What new ways are you going to try to deal with it?
- Is there anything you could have done better this week? …Neat! Who could you ask for feedback on how to make that better?
- Did you do any “Triple Tries” this week?
- What did you do this week that made you reeeeeeally think hard?
- Tell me something new that you tried this week.
All the questions are designed not just to get them talking or to focus and take turns, but to improve their mental health. We don’t often like to talk about mistakes or challenges we have had, but we need to. Mistakes are great! They are an important part of learning. Kids need to know that! We all struggle with things in our lives, it’s good for the girls to know that everyone experiences this, and the important thing is we figure out how to develop new strategies to deal with them. Life is a big learning experience and when you encourage a growth mindset in children, they will learn how to have grit, how to face challenges without frustration and anxiety.
Using these conversation starters is also a great opportunity to just unburden her mind, in a safe space, from something that may have been bothering her all week. It lets them know you care about them as individuals and not just during meeting times.
I have found these five or ten minutes with the girls before the meetings actually begin is sometimes the most important for a girl. It also helps the girls to settle in and feel accepted, which improves behaviour during meetings. It’s a win-win!