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Use Crisis to Connect More Deeply with Your Child

Life is full of difficult discussions we need to have with our kids, from explaining to our four year old why Grandma died, to hearing from our ten year old that he was bullied on the playground, to confronting our sixteen year old about missing her curfew.

You may know that the Chinese character for the word crisis is actually a combination of two characters: one means "danger;" the other means "opportunity."  Our goal, of course, is to have open lines of communication, which is what keeps crises from developing.  But into every home a crisis or two must fall, and every crisis with your child is also an opportunity.

1. You get a chance to connect more deeply with your child.

2. It's an opportunity to teach him how to problem solve with really big problems, something he'll use for the rest of his life.

3. It's a chance to show him how to manage upsetting feelings and keep a conversation safe for everyone -- an essential life skill.

Intimacy deepens or is eroded by every interaction we have.  The good news is that every interaction is a chance to shift onto a positive track and deepen your connection to your child.

This doesn’t happen if we enter a conversation frightened, or insisting on winning.  But if we approach a difficult discussion with clarity about our true purpose – nurturing this developing human –  we create an opening for something new to happen. If we're open to change, to really hearing someone else's side of things, new possibilities for connection appear.

But don’t wait for crises to have the tough conversations you need to have. Think of it as home-schooling, and you’re the teacher. Or therapy, and you’re the therapist. All parents feel uncomfortable talking with kids about some issues. The best parents do it anyway. You owe it to your child to summon your courage and have those hard talks. And doing so may avoid some of the crises.

Why is it so important to teach your kids how to have tough conversations?  Because close relationships depend on the ability to meet the needs of both people in the relationship, and to negotiate the inevitable bumps when those needs conflict. Successfully navigating challenging discussions will bring your family closer, minimize the bumps in your family life, and teach your child a critical life skill – one that’s considerably more important than doing his own laundry.

Your child’s success throughout life will depend on his ability to navigate difficult interpersonal situations – on his block, at work, in intimate relationships. Kids learn how to work things out with other people by doing it. If he learns from you that difficult discussions are to be avoided, he’s more likely to get divorced someday, or fired. If, on the other hand, he learns from you that people who love each other can disagree but work things out so that both people win, he’s likely to put that skill to use with his peers, in his intimate relationships, and in the rest of his life.

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