My friend Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar at Brandeis University Women’s Studies, has written a new book that totally resonates with me as a parent and/or step-parent of six adult children, five of whom have spouses (one an almost ex-spouse, further complicating things) as well. The book is called Don’t Bite your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children. Great title, isn’t it?
Here’s just one of the helpful tidbits in the book, as summarized by Ruth, and believe it or not, it relates directly to Heartfeldt Politics:
It is summer and many families are vacationing together. The Republican and Democratic conventions are about to begin. But families aren’t talking politics. No, politics is often off limits. It is not a “safe” topic like the weather or the latest tennis match. It could lead to disagreements, and no one wants the unpleasantness of a fight. But when families don’t talk politics, they miss an opportunity to learn about each others’ lives and understand the other’s point of view. Instead, adult children wonder how their parents could hold such Neanderthal views. Liberal parents wonder how they raised such conservative children, or vice versa. No one really connects. Part of the problem is vocabulary. One generation’s description is another generation’s slur. We would all benefit from ignoring vocabulary and instead probe for on the hopes and experiences behind the words.
Many of us avoid politics because we fear conflagrations. However, but if we are to create close relationships we families often need to talk about difficult topics without flaring up. Listening with interest can help; so can asking questions. If we in families can’t talk about what matters to us, how can we as a nation?
We can all learn a lot about how to talk to our children by reading Ruth Nemzoff’s book and learning how not to bite our tongues so often, perhaps even getting to talk more together about the question of “so what are we going to do about it?” I imagine the book would be worthwhile reading for our adult children too, as they navigate how to talk with us about issues we feel passionate about.
Check out more at her website.