Ep 56: Make Meaningful Connections
Joanna Guest shares the lessons she (re)learned about meaningfully connecting with your kids while curating her book, Folded Wisdom, a collection of the best of Joanna’s dad’s 4775 notes to her and her brother. An inspiring story packed with parenting takeaways.
Full Show Notes
Do you ever feel like the week goes by and you haven’t really connected with your teen? You might look back to find that every conversation was about getting somewhere on time, making a plan for dinner, or providing reminders about something that needs to get done.
Maybe you had the best intentions–you really planned to bring up a touchy subject or share something deep–but life just got in the way. You’re not alone. It’s a common complaint from parents in today’s busy, over-scheduled, technology-driven world.
So how do you carve out the time to connect on a really intimate level?
In this week’s episode I spoke with Joanna Guest about what parents can do to break out of the mundane go-go-go pace of life and start working in communication with your teen that is meaningful, positive, and real. Joanna is the author of Folded Wisdom: Notes from Dad on Life, Love, and Growing Up.
When Joanna’s younger brother, Theo, showed no interest in reading, a teacher suggested their dad write notes to pique the little guy’s curiosity. Joanna’s Dad took the idea and ran with it, writing both Theo and Joanna a note with an illustration every morning to take to school. And he kept it up for 14 years, ultimately writing 4775 letters.
Unlike his daily communication, which often felt routine and rushed, the notes hit on deep topics, life lessons, and–during baseball season–the score of last night’s Yankee game.
In our interview, Joanna clued me in to the incredible insights she uncovered in curating her dad’s notes. Going back over the notes ten years later (and with a degree in Family Studies), Joanna marvels at just how special his notes were. She wrote this book to share them with the world.
I was blown away at how wise and poignant Joanna’s advice was for parents of teenagers today. Among other things, she told me:
- How to teach lessons without being so “teach-y” (a major turn-off for teens)
- Why exploring and sharing our vulnerability can bring us closer to our teens
- Using a “practice” to foster stronger communication
- How exploring your child’s interests opens up possibilities
If you are looking to meaningfully connect with your teen while imparting valuable life lessons, you will not want to miss this episode.
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Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Get In the Habit of Connecting When You’re At Your Best:
Joanna told me about her dad, Bob, who wrote her and her brother a note with a doodle every morning before school. An artist by trade, and a morning person, this worked perfect for Bob. But it’s not the perfect “practice” for every parent. The key to the practice was twofold: for Bob, mornings were his favorite time of day, when he felt his best. Second, he was a skilled artist, great with his hands. To discover the best practices to try for your teen(s), think over what a typical week is for you. Write down three times during the week that you feel best. Maybe it’s that moment the coffee kicks in, or when you sink into a comfy chair after dinner, or your lunchtime walk. Next, write down the communication modes you most prefer. Is it text? Is it video? Email? Just speaking? Maybe writing? Circle the one that makes the most sense during your three best times and schedule it into your calendar. The idea is to capture and send a message to your teen during your best time. It’s okay if it is delivered later (like a note or a voice memo). Try one mode and if it doesn’t feel right to you, or you find yourself skipping out on it, try a different method. Some possible communication modes to experiment with: text, email, voice memo, voicemail, video, Snapchat, private Instagram story, picture + caption. (These don’t have to be long, but try to keep it positive!).
2. Create a ‘Family Acronym’ to Pass On Your Values:
3. Embrace Regular Vulnerability with Your Teen:
About Joanna Guest
After working in politics for a few years, Joanna Guest moved on to more heartwarming pursuits, particularly producing her latest book Folded Wisdom. Joanna holds a bachelor’s in Family Studies and Human Development and a master’s in Public Policy. She is happy to speak loudly and proudly about her family – and looks forward to one day having her own.