You'd think after over two decades producing talk shows -- and having spent the last year and a half working on a parenting site for moms -- that I'd recognize a "teachable moment" when I saw one and speak up. But earlier this week, one left me utterly speechless.
When my daughters were getting ready for school, they overheard the news that Rihanna and Chris Brown were back together in the wake of her brutal beating. "Oh, that's good news!" I heard my 15-year-old exclaim. My younger daughter, 13, chimed in, "They are so cute together -- I'm so glad they're a couple again."
Shocked at what I was hearing, I asked them why they felt this way. My older daughter reasoned that "at least now, people would really keep an eye on her," and that "maybe Chris had learned from his mistake." I didn't know what to say. I managed to mumble something about the cycle of abuse, that there was a strong likelihood of his hurting her again ... but in the rush of getting ready, they were out the door and on their way to school with my husband.
How did I mess up such a golden opportunity to have an important conversation about abusive relationships with my daughters? Why was I suddenly paralyzed to say the obvious?
I asked psychologist Dr. Chrystal Evans for insight, and she reminded me that these types of conversations don't have to happen in the moment. She said I could actually take the time to gather my thoughts, and then bring up the subject again when we weren't so rushed. Okay, so maybe I didn't totally screw up.
Dr. Evans gave me a couple of pointers for starting the dialogue: To ask my teen daughters how they feel about what Chris Brown allegedly did to Rihanna, and to probe into whether or not they know anyone who's been in a similar situation. That can open the conversation up to bigger issues of abuse and why it's so important never to keep secrets if someone is hurting you, especially not from your mom! (Click here for signs your teen daughter is in an abusive relationship.)
Have your kids opened up to you about Chris and Rihanna?