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What I've Learned When Talking to My Children

Over the past few days, my community has experienced much fear, anger and worry. Many of those feelings are being experienced by our children. I am the mother of 2 adult children; I don’t always get it right when I talk to them during times of distress. But I can tell you that I follow some pretty simple rules when I do get it right. I want to share them with you – I hope it helps.

As the parent, I need to go first with how I feel. I also need to acknowledge the root of how I feel - If I expect them to trust me with their feelings. I have come to understand that some of the words I use are not feeling words and, as a result, are not helpful. For example, angry is a feeling word, but attacked is not — words like attacked express how we interpret others rather than how we feel. (eg. I feel angry that the virus has spread because I won’t be able to have that birthday party I was planning for your dad) Connect your feeling with your need.

The second thing I have learned is that most of the time, our kids are not looking for advice or help; they only want to be heard. This one is tricky for me as a parent because I go into solutions mode very quickly.

  • We can do this…

  • I can show you how to do that….

  • When I was your age ….

This can be incredibly frustrating for older children – let’s say a 29 year old 😊. So sometimes, I need to stop and feel the situation out. I ask myself or sometimes them – Do you need advice, is there something I can do to help or do you just need to talk about this right now? My experience has been that 90% of the time, they just want to talk. It’s kind of like when you are at work, and you are trying to problem solve a difficult task – you talk it out in the lunchroom with someone who is not even in your department – and suddenly it all becomes clear what you should do next.

These simple rules are hard to follow when we ourselves are experiencing distressful feelings. But this kind of compassionate conversation has been helpful in all my relationships.

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