Weekly Wellness #11: The Importance of Purposeful Conversation Right Now
The strange times continue. Over the past few weeks, the world has been highly focused on navigating new health guidelines as we begin to cautiously venture back into public life. And this week, individuals across North America have become united in a growing call for solidarity against racial injustice.
These shared experiences of struggle have the potential to bring us together with a common sense of connection. However, the constant discussions and media coverage on these issues can also contribute to a growing sense of confusion and even hopelessness - especially for our young people.
It is important that we keep having purposeful conversations with our kids during this time. Regardless of your child’s age, they need you to help them make sense of their world through ongoing conversations.
If young people feel there is secrecy around difficult topics, or they are getting inaccurate information, they can experience unnecessary stress and anxiety. As parents, we can offer comfort and reassurance when we make it clear these things are ok to discuss, and we are able to provide accurate, age-appropriate information. And, we can have genuine emotional reactions when we discuss difficult topics, but as adults, we need to be careful not to overwhelm them with our own reactions, or pass on our “adult worries”.
All kids are different in terms of their willingness to engage in conversations, and this can shift (for better or worse) as they get older. Can you remember the last time you had a really good conversation with your child – at dinner; in the car; or working on a project together? Being thoughtful of when we initiate serious conversations can increase our chances of success.
So how do we keep the conversations going?
- This week the news is full of discussions about diversity, inequality, and justice. What is your child’s understanding of what they are hearing? Read: Help Kids Handle the News
- Encourage them to ask you questions!
- Ask them questions you might not usually ask:
- What worries you the most?
- What makes you most happy?
- What is the hardest thing you have ever faced?
- How would you change the world if you could?
DISCUSS DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
- Discuss how adults in their world have different opinions on some things. Help them see that different perspectives can be valuable, and that perspectives can evolve over time.
- Discuss the idea of diversity in culture; religion; and race through discussion with others, watching movies together, or sharing literature. Read: Children’s Books about Race
- Encourage healthy debate. This can be particularly beneficial to older children and teens, as they try on different opinions in pursuit of finding their own voice.
SHARE STORIES OF STRUGGLE
- Share your own past experiences of struggle. Stories are a powerful way to help young people to see that difficulties are not permanent.
- Did you feel hopeless about a problem?
- Did the situation turn out as you had hoped?
- What did you gain from going through the struggle?
- Help them foster a growth mindset about their own struggles. You can help them recognize that they can learn and grow from their challenges and setbacks.
CELEBRATE THE GOOD STUFF
- Make time to look at good news together.
- Discuss positive examples in youth activism.
When we work to keep the door open to discuss difficult topics, we can support our kids’ ability to cope and also help them learn from the struggles they see and experience.