Listening to Understand

Have you ever asked a friend a question and then forgot to really listen to their response? Maybe you got distracted, found your mind trailing to a task that needs completing, or perhaps you were thinking up a response in your head to something that your friend said. It is easy to get distracted while listening, but when we listen to understand, we open ourselves up to deeper relationships, richer opportunities, and life-long learning. When used in our relationships with children and youth, active listening promotes a sense of belonging as the child feels seen, heard, and appreciated.

Here are a few ways you can practice active listening! 

  • Role Reversal: Think about how it feels when you share something important with someone and they don’t listen to you. It doesn’t feel good. You may feel your thoughts or experiences are not valuable or that the other person doesn’t understand you.
  • Ask Follow-Up Questions: During your next storytime, encourage your child to ask open-ended questions. Asking questions helps us make connections and retain information.

Open Ended Play

Create a Feelings Book with Teacher Cheryl to help your child recognize and become familiar with their feelings and other people’s. This will help your child to interpret nonverbal cues during conversations and offer empathy to others. 

For this activity, you’ll need several pieces of paper, something to draw with, and a mirror. To get started, look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “What does my face look like when I am happy?”

In The Community

New Year’s Eve/Day

This holiday is celebrated around the world as people count down to zero and celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next with family and friends. Many people also take the New Year as an opportunity to reflect and to set resolutions, or goals to work toward, for the year ahead. Each person’s reflections and resolutions are different, but here are some pointers to help your family write your own reflections and resolutions!

Reflection Questions

Think about this last year, 2022. 

  • What is a favorite memory that comes to mind? 
  • What is something silly that you remember? 
  • Tell me about a time when you felt happiest in the last year? What did you learn? Who did you spend the most time with? 
  • We all make mistakes or have things that don’t go as planned; what was the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from that? 
  • What was something hard that you did or learned to do? 

For deeper reflections, follow these questions with “Tell me more about that”.

Resolution Questions

  • What is something you want to learn next year? 
  • What do you want to get better at? 
  • Who do you want to show more love to? 
  • What is something you want to stop doing? 
  • What is something you want to continue doing?

For deeper resolutions, follow these questions with “How?”

Check out our Year-End Reflection Questions from Greentrike Staff for more question ideas!

Global Family Day

The first day of the year is recognized as Global Family Day to promote global peace, unity, and nonviolence. This celebration grew out of the United Nations Millennium celebration, “One Day in Peace”.

We are encouraged to think beyond our immediate family and recognize that we are all interconnected and interdependent. Your larger family could be your school, your city, or your neighborhood. It could also be your state, your country, or your planet! 

One of the best ways we can support our larger family is by volunteering our time, energy, expertise, or contributing financial resources. Here are some volunteer opportunities in Pierce County this month to inspire your family to volunteer together! 

Narrows Beach Cleanup

January 14, 2023, 2 – 4 p.m.

Join South Sound Surfrider on Kitsap Peninsula for an afternoon beach cleanup at Narrows Beach. Look for the blue Surfrider tent and flag. Cleanups are welcome to individuals of all ages.

Oak Tree Park Volunteer Work Party

January 21, 2023, 9 a.m. – noon

Help restore Oak Tree Park’s natural area on the 3rd Saturday of the month from 9 am-12 pm. Metro Parks Tacoma offers a variety of recurring park clean up opportunities.

Host a Donation Drive

Host a Winter Warm Up Drive for Tacoma Rescue Mission this January. Requested items include hand warmers, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, blankets, warm hats, warm socks, gloves, long underwear, and winter coats.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a holiday observed every year on the third Monday of January – January 16 this year. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a social activist and civil rights leader who spent his life bringing compassion, fairness, and racial equality to all people through peaceful marches and nonviolent protests.

Social activism: intentional actions with the goal of bringing about social change.

Civil rights: personal rights, like freedom and equality, that are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

If you want to learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. try one of these books recommended by Scholastic. If you’d like to get engaged in social activism in Pierce County, The People’s Assembly and the Mayor’s Youth Commission of Tacoma both have events, programming, and resources to support young people who want to amplify their voices and bring about social change.

Check out these local opportunities for engagement!

The City of Lakewood releases MLK, Jr. Day videos each year to celebrate its shared heritage as a community with over 50% BIPOC population. The 2023 video will be released on January 6.

The Conversation 253 is hosting MLK Jr. Redeeming The Prophetic Vision: Calling in the Beloved Community at Evergreen State College on Sunday, January 15, for a time of reflection, healing, and community building. 

The City of Tacoma holds a Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration each year to award individuals and organizations that have contributed to the community through human rights efforts, education, and embodying the legacy of Dr. King. The event will be held on January 16 at 11 a.m. at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, broadcast on TV Tacoma and live streamed on Facebook.

The Washington State History Museum will have free admission on Monday, January 16, and performances throughout the day that will bring to life Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. 

Tacoma Public Library is hosting a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Craft at Swasey Library on Tuesday, January 17 suitable for grades K-8.

National Hugging Day

On January 21 people are encouraged to express their affection for their loved ones. While the annual event suggests giving hugs, it is important to give children choices and teach them how to set boundaries.

Children often have little to no control over what they do on a day-to-day basis as choices are made for them. Teaching children to listen to their bodies and express their needs will give them a sense of control and build shared respect. 

One way to encourage understanding of consent and practice setting boundaries is to model it in your home. Give your children options for how they would like to say goodbye and have conversations about how they can exercise those choices around other family members, teachers, and friends. Many classrooms, including Tacoma Public Schools classrooms, hang Morning Greetings posters that outline different ways students can greet each other and  their teachers.


Jayneen Sanders is an author, mother, and elementary school teacher who advocates for body safety. Here are several of her children’s books around consent and body safety.

  • No Means No!
  • ABC of Body Safety and Consent
  • Private Parts are Private
  • My Body! What I Say Goes!

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27 marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi internment camp in 1945 after six million Jewish people were persecuted for their religion during World War II. If your child or youth has questions about the Holocaust, or if you would like to introduce them to the topic, check out these teaching materials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

National Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month promotes youth mentoring and celebrates mentors and the positive influence they have on young people.

What is a mentor? A mentor is someone you trust who can support, advise, and guide you. They take time to get to know you and understand the challenges you face. A mentor can be a teacher, an upperclassman, a cousin, a tutor, or anyone you look up to who is helping you become better in some way.

How can you celebrate National Mentoring Month?

Caregiver Corner

Build Powerful Relationships with Children and Youth

The Developmental Relationships Framework by the Search Institute shares guidance on how to make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.

  • Express Care: dependability, listening, encouragement
  • Challenge Growth: accountability, reflection
  • Provide Support: empowerment, advocacy, boundaries
  • Share Power: respect, inclusion, collaboration
  • Expand Possibilities: inspiration, connection

Print this handout for a summary of the framework.

Check out this TED Talk with lifelong teacher Rita Pierson about the importance of relationships with children for additional insight.