Sometimes, when 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 these important conversations take place. The time and place can definitely increase your chances of having a successful exchange.
Recently, my husband and I needed to have a serious, thoughtful conversation with our older teen. She wasn’t in trouble, but her input was necessary for some planning we were doing, and there were some difficult questions to address. We needed to talk, and we knew it was likely to be stressful for her.
So we planned it out. 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.
So what’s the comfort zone for your family and your child? Is it a favorite restaurant, a putt-putt golf course, or a walk in a local park? 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 start figuring 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.