My youngest daughter had a car accident the other day. On her way to school, she turned East onto a busy road leading to the high school and was blinded by the sunlight on her windshield. This time of year it’s brutal at 7:50 AM. Afraid to stop, but unable to see, she rolled down her window to get a better view. Just then she rear-ended another student. It was her first accident. Thankfully no one was hurt.
What a great opportunity to practice some of the compassion tools we teach at Next Element.
Start with empathy and validation
The first and most important thing to do is provide emotional support. Few things are more embarrassing and frightening for a teenager than a fender bender in front of her peers.
The most important message my daughter needs to hear from me is “You are worthwhile.”
Before getting to the details or ramifications, the most important thing to let them know, “you aren’t alone,” and “your feelings are OK.” Hear them out and make sure to avoid judgment.
Of course I wanted to know the details. What happened? Who’s fault was it? Were you wearing your seatbelt? There’s nothing wrong with asking questions as long as you are curious. If the other person perceives that you already have a conclusion in your head, they will be defensive. If you are trying to blame, trap, or accuse them, it won’t go well.
The most important message my daughter needs to hear from me is, “You are capable.”
I was surprised by how quickly my daughter started problem-solving how to deal with the sun problem in the future. Learning from mistakes can happen when show empathy and are curious.
Natural consequences without judgment
There will be consequences. Every action has consequences. Most likely our insurance rates will go up. If we choose to fix the damage to her car it will cost time and money. The best consequences are natural ones, not imposed ones. What most people think of as punishment is punitive consequences with the intention to cause pain. The danger of type of consequence is that if the other person perceives contempt or judgment of them as a person, the consequences are much less unlikely to have a long-term positive impact.
The most important message my daughter needs to hear from me is, “You are accountable.”
So the real questions become, “How will we share responsibility for consequences?” “How will we work together to take on this new burden and make things right again?” “What boundaries or commitments need to revisited?”
Unfortunate things happen. How we respond can make all the difference.
Copyright 2019 Next Element Consulting, LLC