This weekend I knew my newly thirteen-year-old was going to see the world through a new lens. I had a couple of days to prepare myself for her first visit to the Center for Civil & Human Rights, here in Atlanta, Ga. Whenever we have a conversation about racism or social injustices its usual going to include the phrase “back when your grandparents were growing up.” However, the reality is, it’s not only back then, but also now. So I had about four days to wrap my mind around what she would encounter, but we ended up seeing a video in a small black box theatre at the High Museum that killed my “plan.”
I’m honestly not even sure how the video was but I assure you I spent twice as much time explaining to my daughter what the video was about. We stayed in this one particular area a REALLY long time just having an open dialogue about “black culture” and how it is perceived by others. She responds and says “This is like the Melody books in my American girl series!” and I let out a sigh of relief like YES!
So once I had my daughter engaged in dialouge I realized my son was in a “mood.” He stayed there for about 2.5 hours. He was silent and very notiveably agrivated. One of those moments when you’re like “Hey, let’s talk.” “Are you okay?” “How are you feeling?” and your teenager says nothing just rolls their eyes? One of those if you dont respond to me right now we gonna have it out type of MOM-moments right.
It wasn’t until after I bought them milkshakes did I finally get some answers from my son. As I sat there having this conversation I began to think about ways to make this transferance of energy better.
Ways to help your kids through tough conversations
Remind them their voice matters.
As my son began to explain how the video made him feel, I sat there thinking, we were just at this place, talking to people that make a difference. He had an opportunity to express his feelings to the curators and the people in charge of bringing this exhibit to the museum and he didn’t use his voice.
We had a long discussion on how even as a young person when your opinion is requested you should never shy away from an opportunity to help other people understand your point of view. Be polite but firm in your discussion. Think through what you want to say. As a lover of English and sentence structure I often imagine writing a paper. Be to the point. Give your main points and execute delivery of what you want to say. Make sure you don’t ramble, stay focused.
Encourage them to acknowledge their feelings
I took this opportunity to include a teachable moment. Not only does their voice matter, but their feelings also. When I asked why my son didn’t say anything at the museum he just said he didn’t know. Teachable moment: Even when you don’t know how you feel articulate that. Using language such as, “I’m still processing what I just experienced.” “I need a moment.” “I can’t discuss this right now” are all wonderful ways to articulate that you just can’t handle this $%*! right now.
Even as adults we don’t always have the answers nor do can we always find the “right words” to express how we really feel about a situation. Teaching your teens how to ask for space is more important now than ever.
Give them space
Now this one might be hard for some parents. I find myself constantly evaluting if conversations need to need a place when I want them too. As parents, we think we own our children’s time. By that I mean, when I was growing when my parents commanded my attention it was given, regardless to if I was in a place to receive their chastisement or not.
Moving into our fourth year of homeschooling, I’ve learned when to push buttons and when not too. My kids and I have a very open, and loving relationship. Not the typical teen/parent relationship. We joke, we laugh, we have fun and I don’t have to pull out the “mom” card nearly as much as I used too. Part of this growth as a family unit discovery was giving them their space.
The same way adults need time to cool off from dealing with unruly co-workers, belligerent bosses or irate customers, our kids need time and space to cool off! These kids are growing up in a time where there is zero delay in the news. Everything is RIGHT NOW. Everything happens in real time on social media, in their peer groups, there is racism, sexism, violence, poverty, power struggles all around them, constantly,
LET. THEM. HAVE. A. MOMENT.
Have open dialogue
My final point would be to encourage open dialogue about today’s society. As adults we know we live in a scary world. Our kids don’t need to be scared of everything. As a mom, that grew up needing to feel safe and not rock the boat, I wasn’t a kid that was a tattletale. I should have been lol. I wish I felt comfortable enough to have “adult conversations” when I was younger. The problem with discussing real-world issues is when we were kids they were called “adult conversations.”
Sex, Molestation, Domestic abuse, substance abuse, suicide, etc were not conversations that had an open dialogue. They were earmarked at certain points of the year like “Red Ribbon Week” or discussed in health class but not to the extent it made any real impact on your lives. Have conversations with your kids about what’s going on in their lives. Know who their friends are, and their friends’ friends.
Center yourself as an adult and push aside any biased opinions to allow your teen the opportunity to communicate openly and effectively with you in a safe space.
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