Reparative Conversations with Children

Intention vs. Impact

During my time working at Lake House, or just living on planet Earth, I have made a few mistakes. I have misread another person’s needs, missed a cue altogether, or simply been too caught up in something else to see a need. Life happens! These things happen in our relationships all the time, and it can be especially impactful when caring for children.

As parents, partners, family members, and friends it is never our intention to cause harm to our relationships. It is important, however, to realize that sometimes our actions impact our relationships in ways that do not make sense to us until we see the issue from the perspective of another. So how do we do this?

Regret, Empathy, and Intention

At Lake House Academy, we use a formula for relationship repair. It includes Regret, Empathy, and Intention.

An expression of regret shows that we are not happy with the result of our action, regardless of our intention. It shows that we see a rupture has occurred and that we are taking the first step in addressing it. Next, we provide a statement of empathy which can be described as seeking to understand before being understood. When we witness the experience of another, we are reestablishing a connection between ourselves and that person. At Lake House Academy, this sounds like, “If I’m you, I probably feel really sad about that.” The final step of the repair process is an expression of our intention to move forward. This means taking what we have learned about the impact of a particular behavior and expressing that we are going to try something different next time.

What does this do for your relationship with your child?

When we repair with children for our missteps, whether they are intentional or not, we are teaching them essential skills for creating and navigating healthy relationships. When we can acknowledge that we have affected another in a negative way, we normalize the mistakes that come with being human. Providing empathy for a child is also the best way to teach them to be empathetic with others. Through their experience of receiving empathy, they will begin to understand their emotional connection with others in a new way. Empathy helps children to understand the impact of the things they do and say on others, and we are all looking for ways to guide ourselves and our children to being wiser, kinder people.