Sad, Mad, Glad…A Family Ritual

Our kids’ bedtime routine is much like any other family: bath, pajamas, a story, song, kisses, and wishes for sweet dreams. We also do something we like to call “Sad, mad, glad.”

Some families talk about the highs and lows of their day at dinner time. The President’s family discusses the “roses and thorns” of their day. Local families talk about what they are thankful for as they sit together for a meal. And some save this ceremony to discuss “favorite things” as bedtime conversation. Whatever the forum, kids are full of untapped opinions, ideas and observations, and they love to share them if someone will listen.

In our house at bedtime, each child takes a turn to talk about something that might have made them sad, mad or glad through the day. Sometimes, we review what happened throughout the day, in reverse to help them remember the events of the day. We let them say what they wish.

It is often heartwarming to hear about things that make the kids glad. My daughter says “one hundred million things” made her happy each day. She warms my heart with her gratitude for life’s pleasures when she is asked to name a few. She notes how much she appreciates family time spent together, a kind gesture her brother made toward her, or how a bug tickled her hand.

Initially, I was concerned about revisiting the negative events of the day in addition to celebrating the joys. However, it is helpful to visit the obstacles of the day when the emotions and heat of the issues are calm. It gives us an opportunity to review challenges the kids’ faced and discuss what happened, why, and how they might have handled them better.

Through the process I was able to learn that one day my son was in a bad mood because of something that happened at school. He knew there would be an appropriate and comfortable time to talk about it during “Sad, mad, glad.” We talked about how he responded and what he could do when faced with a similar situation. He felt relieved to talk through what happened and better prepared as a result of the conversation. I may never have known the problem occurred had we not established a routine of talking about these things.

Reinforcing the importance of the process, I explain things that may have made me sad, mad, or glad during the day. This gives me a chance to highlight what they did during the day that made me proud and model emotional intelligence.

Through the practice of discussing the kids’ feelings, I have learned what is vital to my children; we build trust and bond as we go through the process. I know there will be times when communication will be a challenge. My hope, however, is that “Sad, mad, glad” establishes a fallback foundation throughout our lives.

Michelle Hoffman is a PAMP member and a mom.

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