How to Prepare Your Heart for Difficult Conversations with Your Kids
Parenting isn’t easy. Counter-cultural parenting—that’s next level difficult! The world tells us, and our kids, that the way we feel determines our reality. But with this mentality, those struggling with depression would be truly worthless. Those experiencing a breakup would be rejected and unloved. This idea that our feelings dictate our reality is a dangerous falsehood planted by the enemy. Instead, believers must recognize feelings for what they are, acknowledge them, analyze them, and work through them! The way we feel doesn’t change the reality of our identity, and praise God for that! We are chosen and dearly loved. We are who God says we are. We are who He made us to be. There is beauty, purpose, and (humble) pride in knowing the very best version of ourselves is exactly how our Creator uniquely designed us to be.
As you approach a difficult conversation, like one around gender and identity with your kids, you may feel hesitant—perhaps afraid to say the “wrong thing” or start an argument. These feelings show you are a compassionate and concerned parent! Whether your child is currently searching for their identity, they’re surrounded by classmates and peers struggling with confusion, or they only ever see the topic portrayed on seemingly harmless TV shows. This blog post, and our prayers, are for you. With Christ, we have the power to overcome this fear and bask in the truth of the Gospel. When we speak truth in love, we allow room in our lives for the Spirit to move, grow, and influence. Rest assured in the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9—in our weakness, God’s grace abounds.
Before you enter into this important conversation with your child, it’s important to prepare your own heart first. Important conversations often bring a weight of stress—and that stress can be a catalyst for conflict or misguided urgency. Approach the topic before you are prayerfully equipped and the whole thing can become emotionally-charged and messy. Instead, prepare and have the conversation when your heart is ready to shepherd, disciple, love, and care for your child the way Jesus does.
Preparing your heart also provides an opportunity to eliminate shock from the conversation. The quickest way to shut down any chance of an open, honest, and meaningful conversation is to dwell in shock. Instead, bring a spirit of curiosity, love, and level-headedness. Offer reassurance that your love, just like that of the Father, is unconditional. Be inquisitive, ask follow-up questions. Let grace and mercy abound. Be a beacon for the light of Christ through your parenting, allowing Him to shine through the darkness of confusion and doubt. Love has the power to exist alongside tension—but only in a safe, empathetic environment.
Practice reflective listening. Before entering into a difficult conversation with your girl, brush up on your reflective listening techniques. This interpersonal skill is a helpful tool in your girl feeling heard, understood, and valued. And remember: reflective listening does require embracing the other person’s perspective, but it doesn’t mean agreeing with it. Reflective listening offers a non-judgmental, empathetic solution to what could be a difficult and emotionally-charged conversation. The simplest way to practice reflective listening is to adopt the phrase “What I’m hearing you say is ____.” This reflects the previous statement back to its owner and offers the space for resolution of thought between both parties.
Patti Garibay is the Founder & Executive Director of American Heritage Girls (AHG), a national Christ-centered leadership and character development program for girls ages 5 to 18. For nearly three decades, AHG has been at the forefront of countering the culture by leading girls and women to creating lives of integrity. Patti is the author of Why Curse the Darkness When You Can Light A Candle?, a story of trust and obedience to inspire those who desire to make Kingdom impact yet struggle with the fear of inadequacy.