Growth Spurts: Hard Conversations
Hard conversations are part of life. And for those of us who really don’t like confrontation, these conversations can be extremely taxing. The easy way out would be just to avoid them altogether–to “keep the peace”–, but we all know that that doesn’t help anyone in the long run. As difficult as it is, it is best to dig in and face the conflict head-on but to do so with grace and kindness, as well as honesty.
Over the years, my family and I have been involved in many difficult conversations–some with friends, some with relatives, some with neighbors, some with work associates, and some just within our own family. Though Kevin and I do shield our children from details that may be too heavy or not age-appropriate for them, we do not shield them from the fact that hard conversations just have to happen sometimes–even if it’s between Kevin and me.
I don’t mean that we sit our children down and make them listen to us argue, and I don’t mean that they are physically included in every difficult conversation that we have with people. But I do mean that our children are aware that they occur. They have seen us handle some of the conversations well and some of them not so well. They have seen us battle our own anger and pride, and sometimes we lose that battle. So where do we go from there?
However successfully or unsuccessfully Kevin and I have handled each of the tough talks, we still try to learn from them, and we try to encourage our children to do the same. As difficult as it is, we encourage each other to look first at ourselves and discern where we have been in the wrong and then own up to it. (Sheesh, that’s hard!) Then we encourage each other to extend grace and forgiveness to those who may have wronged us, whether they admit it or not. (Note: We find that it’s sometimes hardest to extend grace to those who are closest to us and especially to those who are related to us. Anybody else find that to be true?)
Most of all, we try to teach our children to initiate these conversations themselves when they are having a problem with a sibling or a friend. We may offer guidance along the way, but we feel that it is important for them to learn now how to start facing uncomfortable circumstances and disagreements. And if their situation involves an adult, we accompany our child, but we try to let our child do most of the talking.
This is so hard (for everyone), but it is such an important life skill to be learned. And the sooner they start learning to face it–particularly when they are the ones who need to apologize for something they said or did–, the more accustomed they will be, and it will become (somewhat) more natural for them. Unfortunately, we also have to teach our children (and remind ourselves) how to handle situations when we do not receive the forgiveness that we seek or when a relationship just doesn’t seem to recover after a disagreement. Every one of these lessons is ongoing for all of us.
I’m sure we’d all like to shield our children from these hard conversations, but that just isn’t realistic. But what we can do is demonstrate for them how to have these conversations and offer guidance for navigating these often-feared and sometimes-tumultuous waters when they have to have their own difficult discussions. They will be so much healthier for it.
Carrie Bevell Partridge doesn’t like hard conversations–or even writing about them. She hopes that next month’s “Growth Spurts” will bemuch lighter in topic!