Regardless of your political affiliation, this is a stressful time. It’s the Wednesday after election day and we still don’t have clarity.
I’ve been up all night wracking my brain about how I’m going to explain the situation to my son, Kai. I figured I might as well turn my anxiety into productivity by sharing my thoughts with you.
Talk less, listen more.
I’m going to be honest with you, as somebody who focuses on negotiation and conflict resolution, there are a lot of times where I don’t know what to say in my difficult conversations. And that’s OK.
This is a dialogue, not a monologue. You don’t need to feel burdened with the responsibility of carrying the entire conversation by yourself.
Invite your child to engage.
Great negotiators ask great questions. Here are some starters:
- How do you feel about what’s happening?
- What questions do you have for me?
Each child is unique. You won’t know exactly how to support them until you take the time to listen to what they have to say.
Don’t over complicate the process. Ask questions, listen to the response, and repeat.
We also need to make sure that we respect our children enough to tell them the truth.
How we communicate the truth is going to differ depending on their age, but we need to be honest with them. There are countless reasons why honesty is the best policy, but I’m just going to focus on one — trust.
If you aren’t honest with them about the situation, they will hear the “truth” from someone else. Whether it’s from the Internet or a chatty friend at school, they will begin to recognize the discrepancy between what happened and what you said happened.
And listen, I get it. We want to protect our kids. But if we sugarcoat the truth to the point where it is unrecognizable, we are sending a message to our children that we don’t trust their ability to handle the information and, most importantly, they can’t trust us to share important information in a truthful manner.
This will have a lasting effect on your relationship.
This includes being honest about how you think and feel about the situation. It’s OK to show appropriate levels of vulnerability by sharing your frustration, disappointment, and concern.
It’s important to show your children that it’s OK to have emotions and share those emotions with people that you trust. This will help them to understand that emotions are nothing to be ashamed of, which will serve as a powerful lesson in emotional wellness.
Lastly, we need to get clarity on our goal. I can’t tell you what your goal should be for your kids, but I know for my son, when times are tough I want to make sure that he feels safe and loved.
The easiest way to do this is to use a caring tone and pragmatic optimism. I’m not talking about the type of naïve optimism that overlooks real challenges, I’m talking about the optimism that comes from resilience through adaptability.
Remember, it’s not just what you say, it’s also what you do. This is going to be a pivotal time for them, and we want to make sure that we are leading by example with our words and our actions.
Ask yourself this simple question: if my child were an adult and in my situation, how would I want them to act? Then try your best to model that type of behavior.
Remember, your kids don’t need you to be perfect, they need you to be present. Just try your best to make them feel safe, loved, and respected throughout the conversation.
This is hard for everybody. Don’t let that feeling of discomfort and fear prevent you from engaging wholeheartedly in these conversations with your kids.