“What if someday you forget your lunch at home?” my mom asked as we waited for the school bus. I looked up at her, waiting for the answer. “What do you do?” she prodded. I blinked a few times and pushed myself to think. “I’d tell my teacher?” I asked. My mom nodded. “Then what?” It was the first day of school and I had so many things to think about, but this wasn’t one of them. “I’d buy lunch in the cafeteria instead?” My mom’s face broke into a smile just as the bus rolled to a stop and the doors wheezed open.
Having a game plan is good for kids. Not only do they get to practice thinking ahead, but it gives them confidence if something ever goes wrong. Even as an adult, I’ll ask myself what-if questions. What if I don’t get this job? What’s my next step? If I can prepare myself ahead of time, it’ll help me move forward with greater ease. Here are 5 reasons to play the what-if game with your kids to get the juices flowing.
1. It prepares them for unexpected situations and emergencies.
“What if you can’t get your locker open?” I asked my daughter as we pulled up to school. “What will you do?” I caught her reflection in the rearview mirror. “I’d ask someone for help. Maybe the kid next to me. Or a teacher.” Playing the what-if game with kids gives them a chance to formulate a plan so they feel confident handling a tricky situation.
Try these questions with your child: What if you’re in the bathroom when the fire alarm goes off in school? What if someone comes to the front door and I’m in the shower? What if our fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night?
2. It helps you discuss peer pressure and bullying.
We sat at the dinner table, talking about the day. My son said he saw two kids cheating on a quiz. So, it gave us a good opportunity to discuss this issue. “What if someone wants to copy your work?” Playing the what-if game with your kids gives them practice in problem solving. It empowers them so if these situations were to arise, they’d be ready to handle them.
Try these questions with your child: What if someone asks you to skip class? What if you make a mistake and someone laughs? What if that big kid on the bus bothers you again today?
3. It teaches kids to do what’s right.
It’s easy to play the what-if game in the car. The kids are strapped into their seats and forced to listen to you, so why not use the time?
Try these questions with your child: What if you get your quiz back and one of the correct answers is marked wrong? What if you see someone being picked on? What if everyone says it’s OK to eat on the playground, but you know it’s wrong? What if you find someone’s wallet on the ground?
4. It helps you tap into your kid’s dreams (and concerns).
“What if you had three wishes?” I asked my daughter last night. She said she wanted a LEGO shopping spree (not a surprise), to understand dog language (she wants to be a vet, after all), but also to see her grandparents in person again. “It’s been a long time,” she sighed. In this fun version of the what-if game, you’re not only learning more about your child, but you’re also giving her the opportunity to think about her life and what she wants from it.
Try these questions with your child: What if you won a million dollars? What if you didn’t have to go to school today? What if you had a plane ticket to anywhere? What if you could advise the president of our country?
5. It helps you talk about safety.
“What if you’re at Jerrod’s house and he shows you a gun?” I asked my son. When I leave my child in someone else’s care, I use the what-if game to talk about safety. “What if something happens and you need to get ahold of me?” Let your child come up with the answers. If he comes up with them himself, he’s going to feel more confident. He won’t have to stop and think, “What did Mom say to do?” Rather, he’ll think, “I said I’d do this, so that’s what I’ll do.” A kid who’s confident in his plan is often a safer kid.
A kid who’s confident in his plan is often a safer kid.
Try these questions with your child: What if your friends are playing a game that makes you squirm? What if someone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable? What if a stranger approaches you on the playground and asks your name? What if someone online wants you to send him your picture?
What are other opportunities for you to play the what-if game with your kids?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What would you do if you came across a stray dog?