hard conversations

Teaching Your Kids How to Have Hard Conversations

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If we want our kids to become stable, healthy, well-adjusted adults, we need to do a good job of teaching them to have hard conversations when they are young. It’s hard enough for spouses to have hard conversations, so our kids need our help before they leave the nest. The advent of social media and mobile devices made communication easier but has also made effective communication more difficult. Messages are easily misunderstood, incomplete, or inflammatory.

So before our kids have to break off a relationship with someone, apologize for a wrong, ask for forgiveness, or share some difficult news with someone, make sure they have understood these important principles for having hard conversations.

Communicate in person if at all possible, not digitally.

We need to avoid using social media, direct messages, emails, or texts for difficult conversations. We’ve become so reliant on electronic communication that we are tempted to use it at the worst times or in the most delicate situations. These tools are great and appropriate for quick info, encouragement, and brief connections, but should be used sparingly, if at all, for emotionally-filled or important situations. Here’s why:

  • You can’t fill in the emotional, relational gaps in Twitter’s 280 characters.
  • You cannot communicate nuance and context and emotion in written words.
  • People fill in the blanks without context. For example, what you meant to sound sincere may be easily misinterpreted as facetious.
  • Digital communication can lead to impulsive and regretful communication.
  • Digital communication is easier to ignore.
  • In digital communication, complex issues have to be reduced to unhelpful levels of simplicity. That’s not wise.
  • Digital communication tends to elicit reactive responses, not thoughtful ones.

Bottom line: Nothing can replace face-to-face communication, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.

Nothing can replace face-to-face communication, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.

Practice the conversation with them.

Role-playing can be helpful. Take turns playing the role of your child, or the person they are talking to, and give it a go. Help your child think through the strong emotions that come with the conversation, to anticipate the reactions, to process and respond to such a conversation, and to get through any awkwardness.

Determine the best time, place, and environment for the conversation.

We know from marriage that there are good times and very bad times to bring up sensitive issues. But our kids may not realize how important the setting and frame of mind can be. Help your child determine the best situation and environment that would be most appropriate for the conversation. Just by working through some of these basics, we can help our children be better at resolving conflict and relating to others. For more questions to ask your child, check out our Q & U app.

Sound off: What other tools do you give your kids when they need to have a hard conversation? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the hardest conversation you can remember having? What made it difficult?”