Teachable moments are essential for parents, adults and relationships. It is so much easier to have the sex talk, the drug talk or even the more difficult lessons—morals, honesty, hygiene and self-esteem, when it comes up in life. If you wait for those teachable moments, the person who is receiving the lesson will also remember it better and find it much more impactful because the lesson is brought up when it is relevant. Here are some great teachable moments you can look out for:
1) When someone passes away
It is very hard to teach kids about life and death. It is even harder to teach about grief, sadness and sickness. When someone you know passes away, this can be a good opportunity to bring up this sensitive topic to your kids. It can also be a good way for you to express your own sadness if it is someone you were close to, and help support your kids. Often times, adults try to hide their sadness or tears from kids, but this teaches children that it is not OK to cry. Showing them you have emotions and how to work through them is one of the greatest lessons you can give.
2) When a favorite TV character gets pregnant/gets an STD
This is a great time for the Sex Talk or an updated version. Often times when kids and teens watch shows and see a favorite character get pregnant or get an STI/STD, it can be shocking or surprising. Commenting on this and asking what they would do in a similar situation can be a great way to have open and casual dialogue. Just remember not to keep it going for too long.
3) When someone smells
If you have a friend who needs to wear deodorant or bathe more often, or if you have not had the ‘B.O talk’ with your kid, using a smelly person sitting next to you can be a great opportunity. This works especially well if the learner is the one who points out the rank smell.
4) When you make a mistake
Talking through your mistakes with your kids is so important. It is a great way for them to see that you are not immune to problems, no one is perfect and that they could come to you if they ever have the same problems or mistakes. Learning from your mistakes and fixing them is a skill set that is difficult to teach through words. It must be taught by example.
5) When they make a mistake
When they make a mistake, this a great time to talk them through what happened. Often times, when I made mistakes I thought that was when my parents would be most angry, when in fact they were so happy I came to them, they were understanding and open and wanted to help me fix it. Working with them on fixing my mistakes was some of the greatest bonding I have ever done with my parents.
6) When you get in a fight
I often see parents begin to fight and then say “lets take this in the other room,” or “lets talk about this later when the kids are asleep.” Then, the argument is worked out behind closed doors and they come out mended. Yet, all the kids see is the beginning of the fight and bad feelings, they do not get to see how you worked it out. Of course, there are some fights that are inappropriate or might upset kids, but often times showing them how two mature adults can start at two opposite sides of the spectrum and then come together can be one of the best ways to teach your children about conflict resolution and compromise.
7) While traveling
Traveling brings up hundreds of teachable moments. How do you handle being late? Being stressed? Unexpected changes? Unsafe environments or being overcharged? These are all lessons that your kids need to learn later. I think it is great to not only experience these things with your kids, but then talk them through later! Discuss with your kids in the cab, how stressful it was for you when the hotel manager wanted to overcharge for bathrobes you did not use. Ask them what they would have done. Ask them if they think it was fair. You are teaching them and showing them you value their opinion.
8) When you see someone being rude
This is the best. It is so hard to teach your kids not to be rude. If you tell them about it ahead of time, it is irrelevant, if you teach them about it in the moment of their rude outburst, they won’t listen. The best is when someone else is being rude. I remember one time a man yelled at a waiter in a restaurant. Everyone was looking and we could see the waiter was embarrassed and the man could not enjoy the rest of his meal. My dad turned to me and asked me what I thought of the outburst. He pointed out that the waiter was hurt, and everyone in the restaurant was embarrassed for him and the man himself was even more miserable. He asked what I would have done. I said I would have asked him or the manager nicely, that way everyone would have been ok. Great teachable moment.
9) When they are embarrassed
Sometimes embarrassment serves a purpose. If they are embarrassed about something that happened they are probably feeling vulnerable. When kids feel vulnerable they are usually more open to listening and asking for help. Take this time to tell them you have been there too and offer to help.
10) When it happens to you
When anything you want to teach happens to you, it is time to teach it. I often tell parents instead of having the “Facebook talk” and talking at them about possible horrible scenarios, it is better to tell your kids that you are worried yourself about old friends posting bad pictures or mean comments. Then ask them what they would do. It is good to hear their perspective and by using yourself you are helping them role-play on the sly.
Life is a teachable moment. That is what is so great and overwhelming. Do not let time and events pass you and your family by. Always keep your mind and communication open so your kids can learn, and you can learn from them…kids have a lot to teach as well!
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