Whether it's sitting around the table during the holidays or food shopping on an ordinary day, people love to give other parents unsolicited advice. Often, parents don't know how to respond. Sometimes we don't say anything, sometimes we get defensive, sometimes we just nervously laugh. So, just in time for the holidays I thought I would arm parents with the communication strategies to handle these comments so when it comes up (because you know it will) you will be ready!
1. Stay Neutral- state a fact, "You are right, I have been working too many hours recently..." and just leave it at that.
2. Disarm- "You may be right, the music the kids listen to these days is not always appropriate..."
3. Empathize- "I see that you are frustrated and if I were you I would be frustrated that my family had to move to take a new job, I get it..."
4. Turn the Table- "If you had to make a decision about which school to send the kids to, what would you do?"
5. Choose love- "I love you, I know you are just concerned about my health..."
6. Validate- "I hear you saying that when I let the kids sleep with me you are concerned this will be this way forever..."
7. Depersonalize- remind yourself that other people's opinions are not about you, they are about them. In this case an easy, "oh yeah, uh-huh..." will do.
8. Deflect- "How are things going with you, your work, your kids?"
9. Humor- make a joke about yourself or your situation, bring lightness to the situation instead of anger, "I'm a hot mess these days!"
10. Honesty- let's say a touchy topic comes up like your impending divorce, state what you need like, "for this one day, I would like to take a break from talking about the divorce and talk about other things."
11. Agree- when there are things that you agree with, like the kids should be on their screens less, say something like, "I agree that they should put their phones down more."
Remember that when family and friends gather there is often alcohol, baggage and expectations that get in the way. Going into a situation with the forethought that something is likely going to come up that could trigger you is helpful in planning on how you are going to handle unwanted advice or comments. It's also helpful to talk about it with your partner or spouse ahead of time too so you are both on the same page about how to respond to this type of stress. Some of the strategies above are easier done by certain people than others. Pick two or three that you can imagine using and see how it goes!