“Oh she is so cute, her ears remind me of Dumbo”, or “I miss that stage, you better enjoy it because when they get older it gets worse.” With a shift in our social interactions this year, engaging with others outside your close family and friend circle looks a little different. Lots of parents are intentionally choosing how they are engaging with others. Some are only choosing to do outdoor activities such as play grounds, parks, gardens or any place to let those little ones run off some energy. Those socially distanced, outdoor spaces will definitely have you running into other parents where conversations start because you happen to be standing there.
It always seems that opening lines are comments about your child’s appearance, their behaviors, or even your parenting choices. These comments might be more tolerated if they had come from a close family member or friend, but the fact that these comments came from a complete stranger might be more unnerving. Here are 4 topics of conversations to avoid when engaging with others and their children and ways to have healthy social conversations during this everlasting pandemic.
4 Topics Of Conversation To Avoid
Mama always says “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Wouldn’t it be nice if all adults practiced what they preached? Becoming a mom may have made you more aware of how critical everyone really is, or that on most days you should put on armor before heading out the door. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but seriously, people have a lot of things to say and offer up a lot of advice. To avoid any potential conversations that could be misinterpreted, here are 4 topics of conversation to avoid when engaging with others about their child(ren).
1. Parenting Choices. No one ever wants to hear they are doing something wrong, but no matter how you choose to raise your child, someone will always have something to say. It could be as simple as what you’re feeding your child to the toys you let them play with. These comments will sting a bit or you may get angry, but the best thing to do is to push it aside and just try and forget whatever was said. At the end of the day, their snapshot opinions about your parenting choices are irrelevant because they are just that, YOUR choices. So shake it off, keep it moving, and know you are doing what is best for your family.
2. Size Of Child. “How old is your little guy? Oh really, he is tiny for his age”. Thanks, Karen, I think my child’s size is just perfect. Comments about your child’s size could leave you feeling inadequate and questioning if you are feeding them enough or too much, if they are getting the right amount of nutrients, or if something else could be wrong. Take a deep breath Mama. That is a conversation to have with your pediatrician, not some rando at the park. If you are truly concerned then talk to your doctor but try not to let one person’s comments send you down a spiraling path to nowhere. You are doing a great job!
3. Appearance. We live in such a critical society that focuses way too much on appearance. Making comments about how other people look or their child looks can impact their self-confidence. Appearance comments should just be banned from all topics of conversation when engaging with others because more often than not, they end up just being judgy and not needed. We teach our children it is not ok to hurt someone else’s feelings, and we should also be teaching them that making comments about another’s appearance is never really ok either.
4. Unsolicited Advice. “Wow! You sure have your hands full.” For some reason, taking a child out in public gives strangers the space to offer up suggestions or make comments about you, your child(ren) or even your parenting decisions. As a parent, it is important to be open to new ways or new ideas of doing things. However, most parents can agree on one thing and that is unsolicited advice is not welcome. Keep your comments to yourself and understand if that a mom wants advice, she will either ask for it, or just Google it!
Read More: How Fear Impacts Your Parenting Skills
3 Talking Tips For Engaging With Others In Social Settings
Grocery store, school drop off and pick up, eat, sleep, repeat. Adult interactions might be a little rusty these days but that does not mean that engaging with others needs to be difficult. One piece of unsolicited advice you don’t get is how often you will have to talk to other parents, whether you want to or not. It is par for the course people. The good news is you can prepare for the expected or unexpected conversations by keeping these 3 talking tips in your back pocket. It will be much better than talking about the weather.
1. Offer A Compliment. Most parents can go on endlessly about their child if you let them. If you can’t think of what to say to another parent offer a compliment to the parent or even the child. “Wow! I really like your dinosaur pants”, “She does such a great job climbing that rock wall” or even “That stroller is awesome, I love the color and extra cargo space underneath”. It is amazing how a few simple words can not only brighten someone’s day but also open up a healthy start to a conversation.
2. Choose An Appealing Topic. Take a look around and watch the children’s behaviors and find some similarity. If you are an introverted parent and curious by nature, a great way to start conversations is to ask questions. Besides, people are just naturally curious about other things people have going on. A great start could be asking the child’s name then doing introductions. Another topic could be their age, toddlers are very interesting creatures and there could be endless conversations just on that. Whatever you do, stay away from appearance, or size!
3. Be Yourself. If having a full on conversation is not what was intended but what happened, just be friendly and be kind. Talk about the things you love, run around with your kid and just have fun. Not everyone is going to like you, and that is ok. You will find other parents whom you just click with and others you just don’t. In the meantime, just be yourself and you will find your people.
Engaging with others shouldn’t feel like a chore. Yes, you will have conversations with people or hear comments from strangers that leave you speechless, but not all small talk has to be difficult. Steering clear of certain topics while preparing for others is a sure way to make these interactions as smooth as possible. When in doubt just be kind and be yourself!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on Stop Mom Shaming: Motherhood Is Not A Competition.
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