Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: conversations

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    How to Have Real Conversations

    In his book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Earley shares this quote by Mortimer J. Adler: 

    “Without communication, there can be no community. … That is why conversation, discussion, or talk is the most important form of speaking and listening.”

    FRIENDSHIP MATTERS

    In recent years, we are having fewer and fewer sit-down, face-to-face conversations. Those things seem to have been replaced by texting, emojis, messaging on Facebook and emails. All these things may have short-circuited our ability to know each other deeply.

    News stories abound about the increase in anxiety and depression for all ages, we have seen the suicide rate triple for teens, and surveys indicate we as a culture are lonelier than we have ever been. In light of that, perhaps the new year should be designated as a year of intentional conversation with others.

    “Everything in the universe has its roots in friendship,” says Earley. “That means that longing to be in right relationship with other people and things is at the heart of every molecule in existence - and most powerfully in our own hearts.”

    Earley explains that conversation exposes us in two ways: face-to-face conversation brings risks and truth-telling happens.

    HOW WE COMMUNICATE IMPACTS EVERYONE

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle believes that replacing face-to-face communication with technology is depleting people’s capacity for empathy toward others. Research has shown that the way people are currently seeking to communicate through devices has threatened true friendship. Instead of things happening in real time right in front of us, people are planning and curating the versions of themselves that they want to bring to the discussion. 

    Removing tone of voice, facial expression and body language from communication leaves the conversation lacking in so many ways. How can we bring back real, honest conversation? It’s not as hard as you might think.

    • Make an effort to remove devices from the dinner table whether you are at home or at a restaurant. 
    • Create space for regular conversation and fellowship with family and friends. Instead of the well-meaning, “Let's get together soon!” pull up your calendar and set a date to get together to catch up on life. 
    • For the sake of your emotional health, there should be a couple of people you connect with on a regular basis. These would be the people Earley is describing with whom risky conversations take place, truth-telling occurs and perfection is not expected.
    • When it comes to modeling the art of conversation with your children, create tech-free zones/times in your home where your family can come together for game night or other activities that invite the opportunity for conversations to occur. 

    CONVERSATION STARTERS

    If you feel like you aren’t great at getting conversations going, here are a few questions to get you started:

    • What is something that is popular now that totally annoys you and why?
    • What is the best/worst thing about your work/school?
    • If you had intro music, what song would it be and why?
    • Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
    • If you had to change your name, what would it be and why?
    • How should success be measured, and by that measurement, who is the most successful person you know?
    • If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would the question be?
    • What was the best period of your life so far? What do you think will be the best period of your entire life?

    People of all ages are actually dying from the lack of community that currently exists in our culture, but that trend does not have to continue. Every person can be intentional about having regular meaningful conversations with others. Imagine how different our culture could be if we all committed to working on this.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 28, 2019.

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    4 Ways to Have Difficult Conversations During the Holidays

    As you gather with friends or family, chances are good that at some point you will encounter people who don’t share your point of view about topics that you feel strongly about, such as politics, faith, raising children, immigration, or... you fill in the blank.

    While emotion surrounds these topics, it is possible to have civil conversations about any one of these things with capacity to agree to disagree and remain friends or connected as family.

    Keeping the following things in mind can help create more civil conversations:

    • Remember that what you believe makes perfect sense to you, but other people have reasons for why they believe the way they do. Instead of shutting them down, ask questions to help you better understand why they believe the way they do. You may still walk away from the conversation shaking your head, but having a reasonable conversation may lead to better understanding on both sides of the fence. Many of these issues are not cut and dry; they are often deep and complicated.
    • Your words are like a construction site; they can either build people up or tear them down. You have the opportunity to be respectful and gracious regardless of the topic at hand. When children in the room watch you navigate a complicated conversation in a respectful way, you are teaching them. Whether you believe they are paying attention or not, they are more than likely taking in your words and your every move.
    • Speaking respectfully makes a difference. If you demean, degrade and disrespect the person you are speaking with and then walk away from the relationship, they will have one less person in their life who has a different perspective that could elicit thought-provoking conversations.
    • Self-control is key. We are all in charge of our own emotions, actions and behaviors. Even when people are disrespectful toward us, we can choose to respond in kind or to do something different. It absolutely takes two to tango, but it only takes one person to change the dance. If you refuse to escalate and meet like behavior with like behavior, it becomes a different kind of conversation.

    In the end, we must figure out how to live civilly with people who don’t think exactly like us. Thinking about those conversations ahead of time can help you handle those difficult topics with confidence.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 11, 2018.

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    When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

    There is a commercial on television showing a father and his very inquisitive daughter sharing a meal together. Rapid fire, she asks why the sky is blue, why zebras have stripes, if turtles like cheese, why she has fingerprints, etc. For each question, the dad gets a little help from an insurance agent who is seated right behind him. However, when the girl asks her dad where babies come from, the agent asks for his check and quickly disappears.

    Where do babies come from?

    That question can make adults squirm and respond with some creative answers. One answer even involves eating a watermelon seed that grows in mom’s belly. When one mom returned the question, her daughter replied, “When two people love each other, the dad buys a pumpkin seed and gives it to the mom. Then her stomach gets big like a pumpkin!”

    It's great that children are actually asking their parents for this information. While the topic might cause tremendous angst for some, there is no better person to answer than their parent. Instead of sidestepping the question or giving a crazy answer, use the opportunity to provide enough age-appropriate answers and muster enough boldness to encourage more questions in the future.

    Many parents say they want to be the one to teach their children about sex. Yet teen and young adult surveys show that's not the case. TV and the internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex. School, parents and peers are next on the list.

    It's great to start talking with your children about sex when they are young, even though some parents want to wait until their child brings it up. If you cringe and have a deer-in-the headlights look at the thought of discussing sex, your child may believe the topic is off limits.

    Experts say parents should begin having age-appropriate conversations with their children around age 6. At this stage, children are often curious about their bodies and why their body is different from their sibling’s. They may even be hearing things from other schoolchildren. It is important that children have accurate information from the person they should be able to trust: their parent. So take a deep breath and wade in the water.

    Young children often ask where they came from. For starters, a parent can ask their child where they think they came from. The child might actually be asking where they were born. With a serious sigh of relief, that is easily answered. Another option for 5- and 6-year-olds is to read a book. Baby on the Way or Where Did I Come From? are good examples.

    For elementary-age children, focus conversations on correctly naming sexual organs and private parts, personal boundaries, pregnancy and building healthy relationships. If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Clarify the question and keep your answers age-appropriate, brief and simple. If they want to know more, they'll usually ask. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. You can always say, ”Let me get back to you about that,” then make sure that you do.

    The thought of talking with your child about sex may cause your heart to race and your stomach to flutter. But remember, they are only asking because they are curious. Parents are their first and best teachers.