It's Not Just What You Say, But When (And Where) You Say It
Sometimes, we need to talk with our kids, or spouses, or friends about something meaningful and important. We put a lot of thought into what we want to say. Maybe we take notes, or practice out loud. That helps to make sure to say what we mean.
It's equally important to give some thought to where and when important conversations take place. The time and place can definitely increase your chances of having a successful exchange. Sometimes, it's casual, like having a conversation after watching a movie, or talking about world events at family dinner.
But sometimes, when there is something important that you want to discuss – to share your values about something, or prepare your child for upcoming life changes – you'll want to schedule a conversation.
Planning Out Important Conversations
When my husband and I needed to have a serious, thoughtful conversation with our older teen, we tended to plan it out because we knew that she was likely to experience it as stressful. She wasn't in trouble, but whenever her input was necessary for some planning we were doing, and there were some difficult questions to address, we needed to talk with her.
So we planned it out. One time in particular, we decided to have the conversation while taking a hike, and prepared her a day in advance. Did she want to go on the hike? ABSOLUTELY not! She wasn't in the mood, and tried to weasel out of it. We held our ground, trying not to take it personally or get angry that she didn't want to go. We joked and teased, but held firm. We knew that, once outdoors, she would be much better able to stay with a challenging conversation. And you know what? It really worked. She might not admit it, but she was grateful that she was able to feel comfortable in an otherwise difficult situation.
Finding Your Comfort Zone
So what's the comfort zone for your family and your child? In typical times, it may be a favorite restaurant, a putt-putt golf course, or a walk in a local park. Maybe it's a visit to your own back yard. If you know, start going there occasionally so you'll have a safe space when you need it. If you don't know, now's a good time to figure it out.
And remember to prepare your child for challenging conversations when you know they're coming. Giving a little notice can prevent defensiveness and improve your child's ability to embrace another notch of maturity.