It became clear to me when my kids were pretty young that we are a chatty family. No. Not chatty. Excessively talkative with all sorts of opinions. We love a happy debate, a deep conversation, and a wax nostalgia really churns our butter. But sometimes, we need to just stop talking.
Actually, what I really mean, is not all conversations are right for all environments. I don’t mean asking about your teenagers gas issues in front of their friends- that’s obviously always well timed. I mean in the car, before bed, and the dinner table each have right and wrong conversation parameters.
Dinner time is vital. So vital there isn’t enough room in this blog post for what I have to say about it and this topic of talking. So I will save it. However, I will quickly say that this is some of the most precious conversation time we have at the Brewer B&B. For about 30 minutes about three times a week we get real legit face time with our kids. I won’t ruin that by bringing up the heavy stuff.
Whatever meal you are consuming, keep the conversation light. Positive. This is no time for disciplining or pointing out our kids’ mistakes in the day. There should be no confessing at the dinner table.
Ask about school and teachers. Offer ideas on new books or help with projects they are stuck on. Ask about their friends and hobbies and how they’ve been sleeping. Share your stories and your hobbies and your stuck projects. DON’T ask about the heavy. If that comes up, just agree to put a pin in it. Save that for the car.
That seems nuts right? Don’t worry. I am not suggesting getting into serious discipline or anger inducing topics while at least one of you is driving. I do mean to say talk about things that are a little trickier or have some meat to it. If you have been noticing your kid and her friends riding the gossip train, point it out. Your kid been having a real negative self image? Maybe they seem depressed. Or maybe you got one of those dreaded bad grade progress reports in the mail. Bring it up. In love. In gentleness. But this is a perfect time to bring it up.
You are side by side, or at least near one another. It’s much easier NOT to multitask in the car, so you’ll each be giving nearly your full attention. (Don’t forget to drive). Guards are down. The talk just wants to get deep, so let it.
We talk about hopes. Dreams. Regrets. I ask really important questions like, “How are you doing with your negative self talk?” or “If you were a monkey, would you throw your poo? I mean, because you have been a human first, so you know that’s gross. But would you go full monkey or would you maintain some of your manners?” or “How is your friend? Is he still getting bullied? What do you want to do about it? Would you like me to call or do you want to go talk to someone together? What do you think your role is in all this? I don’t think God would have allowed you to know if you weren’t supposed to do something. Want to pray for him?”
With so many ages in our family, we choose our subjects carefully based on the car occupants at the moment. Because sometimes I say things like, “Have you noticed any kids at school who seem to be having a hard time? What do you think you can do to make them feel a little better?” and other times I say, “Has anyone ever asked you to look at porn? What did you/would you say? You need to know this answer ahead of time, so you are ready because sadly, statistically it will happen.” We all learn to choose our audience.
We also debrief, but usually we save this one for right before bed. This deems warning. Please do not bring up angry conversation or fresh wounds before bed. That is not what debriefing is. More to come on that later this month. However, if you are sure the emotions have deescalated, or you are checking in on why they were so upset or seemed to have a bad day, then go for it. Please please never hand out punishment in this time. This wrecks the house. For real. The worst sleep, the worst grumpy Carls come morning, and just not at all what we want our kids mulling over while they attempt to sleep.
Instead, snuggle. Be available. Read a scripture verse. Read an ongoing read aloud as a family (you know they all have this for homework anyway! Why not make it a family affair). Pray together. Tell them you are proud of their progress. Tell them you’ve noticed them trying. Tell them you love being their mom, however that came to be.
Just imagine how they’ll wake up each morning if these are the words they’ve heard before bed each night.