"When I grow up, I want to be a giraffe,” my three-year-old daughter declared during one of our annual family interviews. The following year, she wanted to be an artist. When she was six, she decided she’d like to live on a ranch and draw her horses instead of ride them! As parents, we all measure our kids’ growth in feet and inches. But how do you measure their ideas and dreams? Recording yearly interviews with your children will provide a unique way of capturing who they are at that moment in time. Here are a few ideas for you to conduct annual family interviews of your own.
Before the interview
A little preparation will smooth the way. Create a list of questions and adapt it to each child. To keep the session from becoming tedious, limit your queries to about six or eight. If your child is in an interesting phase, be sure to craft questions that will provide insight or laughter in the years ahead. For example, we asked our seven-year-old son what grown-up thing he’d like to do. He replied, “I want to drive the car. I already know how to drive. I’ve been watching.”
Decide on a quiet place where you can interview your children comfortably. Anywhere from the living room to a bunk bed - even the sandbox, if that’s where you can keep them in one spot for a few minutes.
Talk to your kids about what the family interview is all about. Let them know that you want them to answer a few questions honestly, but also be able to have some fun. Be sure to tell them that you’ll be videotaping the interviews.
Hand your kids some sort of microphone, even if it’s just a paper towel tube or a banana. Make sure that you have your recorder running before the children get into position. Turning on a device in front of kids can make them clam up, and you’ll want to capture any goofiness as they arrive.
To avoid one-word answers, ask open-ended questions. You might want to share some of the questions with the kids ahead of time so they can think about how to answer. If they get stuck, take a break, change the wording of the question or make suggestions. Even if most of the interview is constant giggles, which may feel frustrating at the time, many years later your whole family will love watching the recording of the silly session.
Conducting the interview
Keep the interview fun. Let your kids choose what to wear. When our son wanted to be a cowboy, he wore his fringed leather vest. When my daughter was 11, she wore a horned Viking hat because she thought it was hilarious. Invite your children to bring something special with them: a recent art project, their stuffy - even a pet - and be sure to have them tell you what they brought and why.
After the interview
Gather your family together to view the recordings. Or you can save them to be enjoyed later. Some of our favorite evenings have been watching funny moments of our recorded interviews from years past. Whichever way you choose, family interviews can be a wonderful tradition. Whether you conduct them on New Year’s or at the same time every year, this is a fun twist on measuring your kids’ development.
Suggested questions for family interviews
1. “What is your name? How old are you? What grade are you in?”
2. “If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for?”
3. “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?”
4. “Who is your best friend, and what do you like to do together?”
5. “If you could change a family rule, what would it be?”
6. “What is something you are thankful for?”
7. “What is something in your life that is hard [or frustrating or confusing]?”
8. “Tell me something that you’re afraid of.”
9. “Is there something in your life that makes you sad?”
10. “What do you do that is really great?”
11. “If you had to eat one food every single day, what would it be?”
12. “What grown-up thing do you wish you could do right now?”
Janny is a freelance writer who was at one time the busy mom in a household filled with a husband, four children, European exchange students, five cats, two fish, a dog, a bird and a bunny. Now she sits in a recliner with a laptop and writes about those days.
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