When your first response is to scream or run away, practice being silent. Here’s why…
What did they just ask me? Did I hear them correctly?
Okay….okay, don’t panic…..if I ignore them maybe they’ll never ask me that question again.
As a parent, we’ve all had these “uh oh” moments with our kids on the way home from school, on a road trip, or after spending time with their friends. As a professional, I’ve had plenty of those “uh oh” moments and they are guaranteed to continue in both facets of my life. A counselor is taught early on in school about how powerful a tool silence is. I use it in my practice daily, in order to allow the client space to process emotions or the topic. I use it in my personal life in marriage, parenting, friendships, or social media. Silence. Sometimes it’s the best initial response.
When we are standing in the room with one of those “uh oh” moments, it doesn’t have to dominate the room and make you feel less confident in your own abilities as a parent. I want to take the time to share with you some practical tools of how to respond and how to recover.
It is okay to take some time (silence) to process what was just said and how you feel about it, before responding. Sitting with the awkward silence for a bit allows your thoughts to catch up with your reaction, also allowing you to side step regret. It is okay to say “ I don’t know the answer to that” or “Can I get back to you on that?”. Avoid questions that begin with “Why….?”, as those tend to come with some accusatory/shaming connotation. Instead, ask them to expand on the question or maybe how they feel about the topic.
If you find yourself reacting internally (heart beating faster, adrenaline pumping, feeling anxious, mind racing, etc.), know that that is a natural response. Do what you need to not show that reaction in the moment: take some time for a few deep breaths, be in prayer for wisdom and discernment, phone a friend to process, drink some water and return back to the conversation.
During the discussion, allow your child the space to use the vocabulary they are comfortable with and try your best to use the same words when asking follow up questions. I tell my clients “It doesn’t matter how it sounds, just get it out”, giving them the permission not to think about the delivery. My own children will preface questions with “ I might get in trouble for this, but I don’t really know what it means” opening the door for us to explain and correct their understanding, if needed.
In a technology age, maybe you’ve learned that your child is more open with beginning the discussion through text, then moving to face to face. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers on the spot. If there are things outside of your comfort zone, give them assurance that you will find them the help they need.
If you need to seek professional help due to some things that your child is dealing with, don’t be afraid to do so. Every child is different which makes every situation different. Your initial response of silence can make the difference between reacting in a way that pushes them away or brings them in closer to you.
Samantha LaRocque is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Speaker, and Co-Founder of Holy Restored Ministries. She is currently in private practice working with children, adolescents, women, and families. Samantha speaks in churches, schools, and community forums to educate on mental health issues, raise awareness, and empower those in need. Samantha, her husband and their 3 boys live in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. Visit samantha-speaks.com to learn more and to connect with Samantha.