The morning after an argument—for me, it’s when the reality sets in.
For some reason, I am wired to think more clearly in the morning. Coffee helps too.
In the morning, I can sort through how I feel. It’s when I can evaluate the replay of the disagreement in my head. And I usually don’t feel 100 percent confident in how I handled something.
But disagreements happen—especially with a middle or high schooler. As they are forming opinions about what they believe their world should or shouldn’t look like, sometimes it collides head-on into your own wisdom and experience. And while the idea of having a nice, rational discussion is an option, frequently it devolves into something else as parental fears and adolescent hormones create a verbal mess.
So what do you do when the dust settles?
How do you make sure the argument you had with your kid didn’t harm your relationship?
How do you build a bridge to connect the two of you again?
Here are a few ideas.
Be honest with yourself.
Did you say something you shouldn’t have? Did you respond out of emotion, ignoring the things you wanted to say? You may need to apologize to your kid. If so, do it. It doesn’t make you less of a parent. It makes you human.
Did your child say something harmful? Give them a chance to explain themselves in a calm manner. Ask them, “When you said _______, is that really how you feel? What makes you feel that way?” Also, realize that if they said something harmful and they meant it, you’ve gained some insight into how they think or feel. Use that info to help you parent. It doesn’t mean their feeling is accurate, but it does mean it is what they believe to be true. Also, let it go. Forgive them. Yes, parents have to forgive their kids.
Just because you had an argument doesn’t necessarily mean you were wrong. But sometimes we can take the right stand in the wrong way. Assure your child of your love for them, even if you don’t agree on the outcome.
It’s okay to disagree about something—even if you hate conflict. There is something important happening in your household when you have a disagreement with your child—you are teaching your child how to disagree in a healthy way. When that disagreement gets heated, be aware that you may need to talk through healthier ways to disagree. What are the ground rules, and how can you walk away from an argument with the relationship intact?
Find other ways to connect relationally that have nothing to do with the argument. Go out to eat at your kid’s favorite restaurant. Go shopping. Work on a home project together. Do something that reminds you both that this relationship is worth fighting for.