What are you afraid to talk about? Do any of these resonate with you?
- Anything sex related with your children
- Talking with teens
- Drugs or other addictions
- Sex conversations with your spouse/partner (wants, needs, desires, problems, anxieties, etc.)
- LGBTQ questions/concerns
- Bullying (on the receiving end or if someone you know is doing the bullying)
- Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse
- Living with a narcissist
- Discipline issues
- Mental health (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.)
- General feelings of being overwhelmed or unhappiness
- Uncertainty about your purpose
- Phobias (See The Mistake in Thinking Talking is Communication)
- and many more…
The big question is why? I’m going out on a limb and suggesting the answer is fear! Am I right? Fear of:
- the unknown
- embarrassing topics
- ignorance on the subject
- recognition of our own faults/failings
- recognizing the truth (we’d rather live in denial)
I’m sure there are others as well. Another reason might well be the amount of anxiety much of the world is experiencing these days. We have become very complicated individuals. Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT, states “…we are complicated, due to an upbringing that fostered anxiety For most people in our society, this anxiety has become intertwined with our being.”
She goes on to say, “This prevents us from being authentic and being in touch with our true emotions, which is essential for successful communication and good relationships. Furthermore, we may be so entrenched with anxiety we may not even realize when anxiety takes over and makes our life a real struggle. When you put two people with this kind of mindset together, communication becomes difficult because the anxiety each of the brings amplifies this struggle.” Read more here.
The Questions, The Solutions
We need to ask ourselves, “What will I miss out on by not overcoming what I’m afraid to talk about?” “Will I be miserable, sad, carry anger, or will others suffer by my lack of communication?” Then we can ask, “What will I gain be overcoming my fears?” “How will my life, relationships, and communication improve?” I think you already know the answer to these questions.
It is our job, no one else’s, to be active listeners and communication pros. It’s our responsibility to have the conversations, including the most difficult. We can’t assume everyone knows what we are thinking and we absolutely can’t leave the entire education of our children in the hands of school teachers.
- Never embarrass the person asking the question
- Don’t freak out (you can calmly find out later where they heard a certain term or story)
- If you don’t know the answer, say so. Tell the person you will find out and get back to them. Everyone knows when you are fumbling with something you don’t know.
- Go out to the internet, check out places like the Urban Dictionary
- Google those terms you may have heard but aren’t sure what they are
- Get to know the apps that are out there
- Read, read and read some more from multiple sources.
- Make friends with parents who have kids 1-4 years (age and grade level) older than yours. They will have vast amounts of knowledge on current trends and topics
- Speak with a professional if you are really struggling with communication skills.
So many of the world’s problems, including our own, stem from lack of or insufficient communication. The biggest reason the skills are lacking is due to fear.
It’s Not So Scary, Truly
Remember, talking about sex isn’t going to make people (children) run out and do it. Discussing LGBT+ persons does not make anyone become one. Talking about bullying doesn’t make one a bully and discussing drugs or other addictive items is not going to make someone run out and try it.
And oh, while we’re at it, I’m absolutely recommending the use of the correct body part terminology. Cute names can cause a lot of confusion. BTW, penis and vulva are not bad or naughty words, why are so many people afraid to say them? You don’t make up cute names for eyes, ears, and arms, why would you make up cute words for those body parts? At a minimum, private parts is acceptable, but kids should know the proper names.
Unfortunately, in today’s world our kids need to know a lot of things that just 30-40 years ago, we learned at a much older age. Most inappropriate touching and abuse comes from people we know…not total strangers. The ‘stranger danger’ chat is necessary, but that can’t be our only focus. If our children are uncomfortable around anyone–listen to them and trust their intuition. Have the conversations with the child and believe what they’re telling you. Then, have the conversation with the person and/or remove your child from the situation and person. I don’t care if it’s a family member or trusted friend. Trust and believe your child.
Take advantage of even the smallest windows of opportunity. Chat one on one in the car or before bedtime with your child. Carve out time with your spouse/partner each day to have meaningful, intimate discussions. They don’t have to be hours long, but they must be meaningful, authentic, honest and heartfelt. If you’re nervous, say so, then slowly proceed. Don’t get wound up or defensive if the other person asks too many questions or disagrees with you. Pause, breathe and ask them to hold their questions/comments until you speak your thoughts. Take one question or critique at a time. Listen, listen, listen to what you’re saying as well as to the response given by others. Remember, one of the goals of effective communication is to listen to understand, not to merely reply.
If the conversation veers off track, try to bring it back around by recapping or stating facts. If it’s so far off the path, it’s okay to abandon the conversation (most of the time) and return to it at a later date. Remember to include open ended questions and not just those that only require a yes/no answer.
Addressing our own anxieties and fears about certain topics is priority number one. Educating ourselves is second. You don’t have to know everything of course, but knowing where to find factual information is imperative. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t embarrass the questioner. We want our kids, family, friends and coworkers to always come to us with questions; we want them to communicate about even the most difficult of things. Don’t hide from it, don’t dismiss it, don’t assume the conversations are happening. Don’t mess this up!
Today is a good to ask, what am I afraid to talk about and how am I going to fix this?