Are you inadvertently shutting down conversations with your kids?
Sometimes we’re so excited to have an opportunity to talk, that we overdo it. Does that happen to you?
Maybe you find yourself in lecture mode, or maybe your child starts to engage on a topic and then wilts. If you think you might be coming on too strongly, and need a softer approach, read on.
A really easy way to engage your child (especially your teen!) is to ask their opinion about something. Just casually draw their attention to it, and ask what they think of it. Cast a glow of warm approval and gentle curiosity.
Keep the conversation going with nods and “uh-huh”s and follow up questions and “tell me more.” Pause and reflect on what they say. Complement some part of it.
Here’s the most important part: When your child says something you don’t agree with, especially something you passionately disagree with, don’t react to it. Take note of it in your mind and save it for later.
I realize your head is exploding! What?!? Say nothing when my child tells me it’s ok for a guy to hit a girl? Or that he wants to watch porn to learn how to have sex? Or that dressing sexy is key to her self-esteem? Yes. Exercise restraint. Put a pin in it for later.
In this conversation, your only goal is to create a different experience for your child, different from all the other times that didn’t go as well. By restraining yourself, you’re creating safety. You’re giving them an experience in which you opened a conversation, and they were brave and engaged, and they were rewarded with the sweetness of your approving attention.
That is something your child has craved for so so long…don’t sacrifice it to your impulse to teach! By creating this foundation, more conversations will happen and there will be more teachable moments.
When there isn’t open communication with our kids, we can go into scarcity mode, feeling like we have to grab every opportunity to be heard. That tension will drive your kids away! Instead, give the warm listening, and your children will engage in these conversations more often, and you’ll have an abundance of opportunities.
To get started, you’re going to need the conversation prompt, the thing you want to ask your child about. Something that’s a baby step away from “safe” topics and also not alarmingly taboo. Something interesting but not scary. Anything coming to mind?
No? Well, don’t let that stop you!
Kids need to have these deep thoughtful conversations! The surface interactions just don’t give them the tools they need to navigate adolescence safely. When the majority of adolescents have seen porn, muddying their ideas about sex and sexuality, boundaries and consent and respectful relationships…when the celebrities they look up to create music and videos which use sex to sell…when the sexual abuse and sexual assault rates are so high…kids need to learn to think critically about the sexualized media that’s all around them! If you’re not talking with them about it, expect them to absorb those messages and act them out.
If you’d like some conversation prompts, let’s talk. I’ve been collecting resources for years now, and I’m sure I have something you’ll love.
In support of you,
P.S. If you know you need to start having some serious conversations before your child leaves for sleepaway camp or goes to visit the cousins this summer, there is no time to waste! Summer is here! Pick a spot on my calendar and we’ll get the conversations flowing.