There will come a day for you, if it hasn’t already.
It will come out of the blue.
You’ll be minding your own business, going about your day, slogging through the to-do list, taking care of business, putting your house in order.
And then one of your kids will wander by.
And in a completely nonchalant way, will drop a bomb.
A scene from a movie they watched at a friend’s house. A movie that would be anathema at yours.
A piece of information about one of their friends. Which involves a stunning moral dilemma.
An opinion about a news event. That is in direct opposition to your opinion.
A theological supposition that is approximately 180 degrees from what you believe.
There’s a split second there.
Less than a fraction of a moment.
You’ll have to engage one of your top parenting tools in that sliver of a minute, so you might want to keep that tool near the top of your parenting tool kit.
It’s not the first tool you’ll always want to grab. Your first inclination might be to pluck your Black-and-White-Worldview Wrench out of the side pocket. Or it might be your My-Kid’s-Friends-Behaviors High Alert Detector with the high pitched alarm on it. It could be the cell phone kept at the ready in your hip pocket, always on speed dial to call out another parent of that wayward friend your kid just told you about.
Or it could be the Scripture-Bash Hammer, that allows you to start spouting verses at rapid speed.
But the tool you most likely need is in there.
It’s the Non-Freak-Out Leveler.
The veritable Swiss Army knife of the parenting tool kit.
…if you goal is to build this:
A continuing conversation.
Now, believe me, I’ve used all those aforementioned parent tools when encountering bombshell disclosures with my kids. But there’s only one of those tools that is most effective at building what is a foundation of my parenting goals.
I want my kids to know they can talk to me. Tell me anything. Process with me.
And for that to be a possibility, I must become skilled and adept at using my Non-Freak-Out Leveler.
It’s when you purpose to take a breath. Respond in a calm voice. Begin a chat with, “Huh. Interesting. Tell me more about that…”
All while certain parts of your brain and heart may be hollering on the inside.
But you keep it open, non-threatening. Safe.
In how you present yourself.
Because when someone discloses something and they find a soft, kind, open place to dialog about it, then true learning can begin.
As humans, we are wired to feel defensive when we present an idea or an issue and someone immediately jumps to the other side and begins a litigious monologue.
And, newsflash, your kids are human.
And we are supposed to be the grownups. In theory.
That non-freak out. It takes skill. It’s not as easy to master as some of the other tools in the parenting kit.
But as our parenting journeys continue through the years, one of the most powerful family cultures we can set for ourselves and our kids is to keep the conversation going. And a conversation is a two-way street.
So let your kids shock you on occasion. And practice the non-freak out. Ask questions. Learn a little more. Take a pause. Let your action be active listening. Don’t fix, fixate, or flash in panic or anger.
And allow the terrain to level out in a conversation.
So that you can then be heard and trusted to guide over rocky issues.