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Changing the Conversation Can Change Everything

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  • Changing the Conversation Can Change Everything

    When I began changing the conversation, my son began to change. This quote is from a mom who had been concerned about her son. She … Changing the Conversation Can Change Everything Read More

    When I began changing the conversation, my son began to change.
    This quote is from a mom who had been concerned about her son. She was interested in changing the conversation so that things would be more positive.

    She decided to work on the CRAFT communication skills and was excited to see a difference in how her son reacted. And then, slowly, things began to change for the better, and neither one had to look back.

    Changing the conversation can make a real difference in how your conversations go and how willing your child is to consider recovery.

    According to the CRAFT approach, these four strategies can help you transform conversations from confrontational to productive.

    1. Open-Ended Questions

    Open-ended questions, which do not have a Yes or No answer, can be helpful. A question with a “Yes” or “No” answer can feel like an interrogation. It can also raise your child’s defenses. The idea here is to open up the conversation to talk with your child. Start your question with words like How or What. It allows you to encourage discussion and learn more about how your child is doing. 

    Some examples might be:
    • Instead of saying, “Did you smoke last night?” say, “How did you manage your smoking last night?”
    • Instead of saying, “Don’t you want to change?” say, “What would be different if you stopped drinking?”
    • Instead of saying, “Did you think about trying…?” say, “What have you tried to do to feel better about this?”

    2. Information Sandwich

    As a parent, it is easy to get into the lecture, confrontational or talking “at” our child mode when we are concerned about their negative behavior. The information sandwich helps make your child more willing to hear what you say. The first step is to ask your child if you can have a conversation. When you ask permission first, it is like knocking on your child’s door.

    My new book answers many of the questions that readers of this post may have – including how to help their child find recovery. Click on the book for more information. I hope the book is helpful.
    It gives your child the power to invite you into the conversation, which creates a mood shift. Asking first increases your child’s interest and involvement in the conversation. You increase the sense of working together to solve the problem. If they are not interested in your request to talk, do not plow forward. Wait and find a better time.

    If your child is open to talking, BRIEFLY present your information and then check in to make sure the information makes sense.

    I’ve had a couple of parents suggest that they shouldn’t ask permission to talk because they are paying for their child’s treatment or housing them. While I understand their point, the idea here is to create an atmosphere where you listen to each other and move forward. While it may seem counter-intuitive, keeping the big-picture goal in mind is essential.

    You’ll have a better chance that your child will be interested in getting sober or lessening their drug use if you can talk to your child in a positive way.

    The steps to the information sandwich are:
    • Ask your child if you can have a conversation.
    • Briefly state your information or question.
    • Check back to make sure that your input makes sense to your child.

    You may not get this right every time, but this technique helps to change the conversation. And you may not always need to include all three steps. However, this is a beautiful way to begin a conversation so that your child feels that you are talking with him, not at him.

    3. 7 Elements of Positive Communication

    You do not need to include all of these every time you talk to your child. Yet, these are good tips to keep in mind. Even if you just use a few each time, it will make a difference. 
    • Be Brief  [Keep it short and simple.] 

      Do you remember Charlie Brown’s teacher who talked on and on (wha, wha, wha)? I know my kids tuned me out on more than one occasion, and maybe yours have too. Get to the point as quickly as possible. When you say something once, it can be a suggestion. Continual repeating of the same information can feel like nagging. 
    • Be Positive  [Always look at the positive side of a situation.]

      While you may feel hard-pressed to find something positive to say when your child is making destructive choices look for opportunities in every situation. Think past the drug use to their positive qualities and focus on those as often as possible. Consider how you can turn a negative into a positive.
    • Be Specific and Clear [Concentrate on one topic.]

      When you are clear and concise, you have more of a chance of being heard. Be clear and focused on one area of concern instead of discussing several topics. Focus on the behavior you want to see changed. 
    • Label Your Feelings [I feel…] 

      It helps to label how you are feeling. For example, I felt a bit frustrated the other day, and I said to myself, “What I’m feeling is frustration.” By labeling my feeling, I recognized it, and the feeling subsided. If you share your feelings with your child, try to remain calm. 
    • Offer an Understanding Statement [I understand why …] 

      Share a time when you were young and felt the same way as your child. Sharing similar feelings helps them feel more connected and lets your child know you have compassion for their feelings.
    • Accept Partial Responsibility  [I know this is partly my fault because …] 

      It can be challenging for parents to take responsibility for where their family is at this point. Remember, you are not to blame for your child’s drug use. You are just admitting that maybe life wasn’t always perfect for your child during their upbringing. Rest assured. You are not alone.
    • Offer to Help [I’d like to ….] 

      The simple words, “How can I help?” can make such a difference and show your support.

    4. Conversation Traps

    Here are some traps I know I’ve fallen into, and maybe you have too. But changing the conversation helps!

    The Information Trap: If only he knew the facts, he would see things differently and change.

    The Lecture Trap: You find yourself talking to your child about what they should do rather than talking with them.

    The Labeling Trap: Labeling your child as an addict or alcoholic is not helpful. They may resist change if they feel they are going to be labeled.

    The Blaming Trap: When you look for someone to blame, it backs your child into a corner, and they will get defensive.

    The Taking-Sides Trap: If you take one side of an issue, it sets your child up to take the other. Usually, that means they are defending their lifestyle. Strive to be on the same side to have a productive conversation. You can work together to develop different options to help solve your child’s problem.

    The Question-and-Answer Trap: Closed questions with yes or no answers are not helpful. Instead, start your questions with the words, What or How. The word “Why” can also bring up defensive responses. You will make more progress when you ask a question that opens a conversation.

    Having productive conversations is not always easy. Start with a few of these ideas that make sense to you. See if changing the conversation helps you and your child feel more optimistic.



    Thank you for reading. I know you have many options on content. Don’t forget to sign up for the Sunday newsletter with information and inspiration to help parents. Sign up now.




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