Hi Friends! I hope you all are doing well and getting excited about the fast approaching holiday season. Although I do look forward to the holidays, there’s always a layer of sadness that comes with them. Mostly because a big part of the holiday season is being with the ones you love, and when you lose someone that was such a big part of your life, the holidays seem to highlight the gaping hole inside our hearts. With that being said, Christmas is such a fun time because Ellie is at the perfect age to be excited about Santa, although already at three she’s a skeptic. She asked me the other day, “How did Santa get that huge trampoline in our backyard last year?” along with a long list of other questions as to why Santa might not be real. Sometimes I envision Andrew in heaven, laughing at the thought that I didn’t escape his skepticism. Ellie is so her daddy’s daughter.
Last night, I had a conversation with Ellie that literally broke my heart, but also gave me a glimpse into her reality. We were watching the 1998 movie, Jack Frost, starring Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston. In the movie, the dad (Michael Keaton) dies in a car accident and leaves behind his wife (Kelly Preston) and son, Charlie (age 12). In one scene, Charlie and this bully are talking about how much it stinks to not have a dad. Ellie was lying on my chest and said, “I want a daddy.” Her words crushed me. I saw this as an opportunity to connect with her and also to apply what I’m learning as a coach, as well as what I’ve learned from child therapists that I’ve worked with. I want to share some of these tips with you in the hope that when you find yourself having intentional conversations with your kids (or anyone, really) these tips might help you to better connect and bond!
- Listen for the feeling. After Ellie said she wanted a daddy, I asked her, “What kind of daddy do you want?” She responded by saying, “I want a daddy that fights off dragons.” Inside, I kind of laughed, but when I asked myself what the feeling was behind what she was saying, I realized exactly what she was wanting. My intention from this conversation was to connect with Ellie, so I thought back to a time when I wanted to feel safe and protected. I completely understood where she was coming from because I slept in the middle of my parents until my little brother was born (we are 7 years apart) and kicked me out of the bed (still a little bitter). When I slept in between my parents I felt invincible, like no one could hurt me, and I didn’t have to worry about anything. Remembering this experience, I said to Ellie, “So you want to feel safe and protected?” She beamed when I said this and I could tell she felt understood. Remembering this time in my own life put me in the right frame of mind to be able to decipher what it was she was wanting.
- Put the ball back in their court. At first, I found myself starting to make her promises about what kind of dad that she would have one day: one that loves her like his own, plays with her, teaches her about God, etc. Then I realized that was the opposite of what the child therapist told me to do. She told me to not make promises I couldn’t deliver. The truth was, I wasn’t sure that Ellie would have another man in her life that would be like a dad to her. Seeing how excited she got about the dream of a dad just made me want to fill her with the hope that one day that would happen, but honestly, I shouldn’t have promised what I have no ability to truly know at this time. After feeling guilty for making these promises, I remembered what I’ve learned in coaching, and that is to allow the person to take responsibility for their dream. I said, “Ellie, why don’t you talk to your daddy in heaven and ask him to help find you the best daddy he can think of.” She smiled and said, “Yes, Mommy.”
- Stay out of judgment and into curiosity. I learned this one from my mom. She always told me this when she thought I was being judgmental. I find it hard to not get emotionally wrapped up and project my judgments when I’m talking to my daughter and I can tell that she is really hurt and there is nothing I can do to fix it. I’m not perfect at this one and fail a lot at it, but I know it takes work. What I’m learning, however, is that just being present, listening, and asking curious questions usually leads me to my ultimate intentions, which are for her to feel loved and understood by me. This leads to one of my most important values, which is genuine connection to people.
I hope you don’t find yourself having to have this particular conversation with your children, but I do know that all of these tips can help to enrich any conversation you have with anyone. I would love to hear your tips and advice for having intentional conversations with your children and others. Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Thank you so much for following my blog and I wish you the happiest of holidays! Blessings and Love.