Meaningful Conversations: Interview with Tara Miko of Bright Littles (Episode 227)
How to you have meaningful conversations in your home? In light of the past two years, especially, there has been plenty of opportunity for heavy topics that can be a bit overwhelming or intimidating to navigate with your children.
How do you bring up or discuss something deep with a child, or what if they ask something you're not ready for? This week's vlog is a fascinating interview with Tara Miko of Bright Littles.
We can protect our kids...or prepare our kids. Which is more long-lasting?
Tara is a self-professed "serial entrepreneur" who lives in Austin, Texas. With a hospitality-based marketing company, it came to a halt during the pandemic, basically overnight. Her whole world changed, as her young daughter was now constantly at home. And in this process, she was really forced to face her child head-on with what questions she had.
Tara's daughter was experiencing a tremendous amount of loss - loss of friends and playmates, and so many other "normals" that were shut down in 2020. As Tara said, the BrightLittles Conversation Cards were made out of her desperately trying to solve her own problem of how to talk with her young daughter.
Her daughter saw all the homelessness in downtown Austin. She witnessed the marches. She didn't understand why she wasn't going shopping and running errands like normal. And Tara started looking for any resources to educate herself and her daughter to help navigate these big questions.
So she started educating herself, and putting her thoughts and questions on post-it notes she and her daughter could pull from a bowl and talk about. It started organically, with just a paper and pen, and she realized, over time, that the answers and conversations with her daughter were way deeper and more insightful than anything they'd had before.
When they started this, Tara's daughter was four years old. Now, at six, they still work together to not only go through all the material offered through BrightLittles, but she's Tara's inspiration for everything they create.
So what are these convo cards? Well, for starters, they are water resistant and easy to clean, and they are cute and colorful! But deeper than that are the meaningful conversations that come from them. There are 100 questions supported by 25 different activities. They cover five topics: health, self, nature, diversity and safety.
They Are More Aware Then You Might Realize
Tara shared a story in the interview above about how, when her daughter was four years old, they were sitting at a stoplight and saw a homeless man holding a sign....
And my daughter asked me what it said.
And I said, "It says, 'have a nice day'." And she straight up called me out. She said, "Mommy, what does it really say?"
[First and foremost, props to the child who recognized the fact that we sometimes greatly underestimate our children and their ability to sniff out a BS answer.]
My parenting changed at that moment. I was raised - like a lot us - that our parents would protect us. So they would tell us a "white lie", if you will. And then we would continue forward. We can either protect our kids or we can prepare our kids.
So I answered her truthfully. I said that the sign said that he's hungry, and anything helps.
And she said, "Why don't we do something about it?" And I was like, "You're totally right. We should... let me think about this. I don't have the answer. Let me get back to you."
The truth is, I didn't know what to do. And when we came home, and had some space and time, I opened the door to talk about it some more, and to find ways we could help.
So from that I asked her and she immediately thought up giving some of her toys away to help some kids who didn't have any. We talked about what the toys could be and do for someone who's never had toys, and she gathered some of her toys that we donated.
This was prompted by her and I went with it. As we drove to donate the toys, we talked about how there were so many animals that lived with the homeless, and we talked about created goodie bags for the animals.
And so anyways, my point being is, they're filling in the blanks, whether we want them to or not. And our children are wonderful little creatures, if we actually would ask them some questions, instead of telling them what to do, you can build from there to create a more meaningful conversation as you see where they take it.
Braving the Tough Questions
Meaningful conversations come not from a strict agenda, but two people really taking the time to think, process, and hear each other out. We discussed in Safety, Deliberate Dialogue, and CIA Spies (Episode 88) how our CIA friends stressed that, instead of protecting our children from all the dangers out there, we equip them with the eyes and insights to be aware and see for themselves as well.
It's not that we're throwing our kids to the wolves; yet I'm not shielding their eyes from even seeing them if they are all around. Even quite literally, what my nine-year-old sees at her level is going to be different than what I am seeing at my height, even.
That being said, do you really want to keep bringing up a difficult topic? If they've forgotten, you should just gloss over it, right?
Do you want to go to the effort, or feel like you have to dissect every element of this hard question?
That conversation about the homeless man didn't even end up with Tara and her daughter doing anything specifically for him. It prompted a trip to Goodwill and a conversation about animals.
You don't need to come prepared to every talk with your three solutions on what you can do to "fix" it. Life is complex. We just flat cannot "fix" the world. It is a-okay to respond to your child with simply saying you don't know, or "let me get back to you."
You Don't Know It All
This is one of the most powerful things you can share with your children. You don't know everything. And that's okay - they don't have to, either. This isn't about finding the "right" answers, but opening the door to conversations.
It's okay to take a beat and compose yourself when your child asks you a jarring or triggering question. It's okay to say you don't know, and to invite them to learn more with you - what a powerful functional education opportunity!
Additionally, there are times when our children ask a question, and our parent brains immediately go down a path of assumptions as to where it's coming from and why they're asking.
Be careful starting a meaningful conversation before you've really asked. Sometimes simply asking your child to dig a bit deeper with the why - why they are asking the question, what made them think of this, etc - you may find they are thinking about something entirely different than the path you might have gone down in your head.
Get the Foundation
Ask them questions back to gather information so you actually might be able to answer the question in that moment. Ask until you can get what the question really is and where it's rooted from. You may get the question, "where to babies come from", and immediately go down the path of the birds and the bees talk.
And yes, what they really wanted to know was, quite literally, did babies come out of homes, grocery stores, or hospitals?
Get to the root of the topic before you jump in so you can truly have a meaningful conversation rooted in what your child is genuinely curious about. In the convo cards, there are no "gotcha" questions. This isn't about creating uncomfortable situations for anyone. These conversation starters are to explore together at your own pace, and with your own perspectives.
Even if it's not in our own home, our children are seeing what is happening beyond that. Consider every friend your child has - what is going on in their home? The likelihood that it's been discussed by your children is high. Consider what you have blaring on the news that your child may be picking up in the background. Consider the conversations you think you're having over your children's' heads - you might not realize how much they are actually picking up.
The beauty of having little conversation starters is that it can help you figure out what your child knows. One question may take you off in a whole different direction, and the key is that it opens up dialogue so the communication is between the two of you vs. your child going elsewhere for the answers, or making their own assumptions.
Directions Vs. Meaningful Conversation
How much time do you spend simply telling your kids what to do? Get your shoes on, brush your teeth, get in the car...
How often are you truly asking them what they think? It's amazing the insights even a two-year-old can have when you truly ask them about what's going on in their head.
Give Them Permission
You may recognize that talking to your six-year-old about the most recent school shooting may be so out of their world that it's not only not age-appropriate, they can't quite comprehend it. But...what if they do? The truth is that topics like school shootings, divorce, death, bullying and more are a harsh reality of the world we live in. And no matter how awful we think they are, it doesn't make them go away simply by avoiding the topic.
Tara worked with therapist and trauma experts to not only look for great open-ended questions that would prompt meaningful conversations, but also incorporates tips and support for parents on what to look for, what to say, what to do, and what resources you can pull to navigate some of these tough topics with kids.
We have to get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable.
Otherwise we're leaving our kids out there to figure it out on their own.
And that's when they can internalize bottle it up.
Yes, you want your child to feel all the feels. You want your child to not only feel them, but learn that powerful emotional resilience that allows them to move forward, even if the emotion isn't their favorite.
The way these conversation starters lay things out is just such a powerful way to engage in a conversation with your child, and open the door to those harder topics. For example, instead of saying, "have you ever been bullied," which opens the door to a word a child might not comprehend fully, it starts simple. "Have you ever stood up for someone? Have you ever been a helper? Have you ever had someone help you?" As you open the door to talking about immigration and racism, maybe it's not using words like that, but asking, "do you know someone from another country?"
There are many ways to approach these topics that don't have to be cloaked in the negative, either. Yes, there may be a lot of negativity in the news about immigration. Yet the conversations in your home can start by simply talking about neighbors and communities that are from different cities, states, and countries. You can explore different cultures through food and entertainment.
It's time to change the way our community cares for people, and it starts with these meaningful conversations at home. Our friends need us. Our neighbors need us. It's our responsibilities as parents to start these conversations at home and be the change we wish to see in the world.
Take ownership of what is coming out of your home by being willing to face the perspectives and viewpoints that are in it before you get too focused beyond.
In the video interview, Tara and I dig deep into some topics that may be a bit spooky for you to broach. And yet it's amazing what open up that isn't what you think. For example, Tara asked her daughter if she knew anyone with two moms or two dads, and her daughter immediately mentioned a blended family with step-parents. Completely different focus than what she originally thought, yet it prompted a beautiful conversation. Our world is made up of many people of all different shapes, perspectives, interests and more. It's okay to be uncomfortable. Yet in our discomfort, it doesn't give us the right to be hateful. Can you give grace and space and love? Can you seek to understand? These topics are not going to disappear as your child grows older.
It's a-okay to even say to your kids that you aren't really comfortable with a topic. Yet how powerful to add, "I'm not really sure what to think about it, but I'm willing to learn and grow with you." What a great way to learn before we place judgements - seek to understand. Conversation starters aren't to take the conversation away from you, but to open the door. You have permission as the parent to share your level of comfort, to share in relation to your belief system your past history etc.
Remember what is within your control
We can't control every aspect of our child's lives. And the more they are exposed to the world beyond us, the more it's critical they have the tools to navigate it on their own. Equipping our children to be comfortable asking for help, asking questions, and seeking to understand gives them way more than simply shielding them and hoping they don't find out. Providing space a home to have these conversations goes back to preparing your child to receive any information and knowing they have the baseline of you as parents to talk to them about it. Establishing this when they are young opens the door for the more complex conversations that undoubtedly will come later on.
It's about creating the space of support for them so they recognize they aren't alone in it.
There is such beauty in creating safe spaces for conversation, and giving grace for where others are in their own journey.
"I've shared with my daughter how there were times in my childhood that we were homeless. My child is an only child, and I don't want her to be homeless. I don't want her to be hungry, and I want her to have gratitude in her life. And so I find ways to share about my life and how it's a little bit different and how we can learn from that.
I'm a very open parent. Yet it's taking me a while to get here. I don't have all the answers, but every day I'm learning, I'm educating myself, I'm reading books. I'm having conversations with other parents. And I'm learning as I'm teaching my daughter."
What a great example of practicing what you're preaching and talking and walking the walk as you go. Live life with your children and learn alongside them!
Open the Door To Awareness
When I talk about personality profiles, it's not an end-all-be-all label. It's just opening the door to self-awareness. These Bright Littles Conversation Cards are opening the door to beautiful conversation. And that's getting to know these tiny humans in your home.
Beyond the toolbox that fixes things in your house, what toolbox do you have for your mental and emotional health, and that of your children?
Yes, some of these conversations may not be easy. However, your easy button is a resource like BrightLittles, which offers convo cards, and incredibly cool text prompts twith ideas and activities to dig into with your children.
Your Weekly Challenge:
This week, go ahead and start following Bright Littles on social media and through SMS text. Check out some of the activities and try some with your family. Share a picture of your kids doing it. You can share it in the Unschooling Families group. You can share it on Instagram and tag @Bright_Littles and @MamaSaysNamaste. I'm going to be looking over those. And in the next week, we will randomly select one winner. And I want to send them a package of the conversation cards, because I do love these conversation starters.
These are relationship builders that can go beyond your kids. Use them with your partner, your friends, and beyond.
We want to see some of the activities and insights that you share. So post a picture of you doing the activities, share an insight that you got from it, whatever there is that shows us that you're having these powerful conversations in your home - and be sure to tag us for your chance to win!
Get intentional with your family. Don't be reactive to what's being thrown at you, but start to create that family that you thrive in, where everyone feels that they have a voice in that they can be heard in that home.
And this is a great way to do it, and celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us now, Namaste
- What Is A DISC Personality Assessment?
- Get your free download of "Success Secrets for Home and Work" here
- 7 Seconds Will Change Your Communication and Connection (Episode 62)
- Feeling Good…or Fulfilled? (Episode 172)
- Dealing With Heavy Emotions (Episode 68)
- Safety, Deliberate Dialogue, and CIA Spies (Episode 88)
- Learning at Home The Socratic Way – Special Guest Samantha Jansky (Episode 158)
- Juliet Talks Feelings: Wisdom from an 8-year-old (Episode 165)
- Feeling Inside Out and Upside Down? Feel All the Feels (Episode 141)
- Can I Get A Chill Pill? High Energy Personalities (Episode 224)
- High Processing Personalities (Episode 225)
- How to talk to your kids about the Birds and the Bees: Part 1 (Episode 182)
- What's Left Unsaid - Nonverbal Cues (Episode 192)
- Which is More Important - Skillset or Mindset? (Episode 218)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Ashley Logsdon, Relationship Coach
- Personality Styles
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