One of the myriad occupational hazards of being a parent is finding yourself caught in an awkward parenting moment. Whether it happens in private or in public, these sticky situations can range from humorous to mortifying, but rest assured that it happens to all of us. Instead of finding the nearest safe space to hide your face in shame, use these cringe-worthy episodes as teaching moments for your kids—and yourself. Here are 10 common awkward parenting moments and how to handle them.

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Situation 1 

That awkward moment when your kid walks in on you and your spouse enjoying some “grown-up time” together.

What to do: In the archives of awkward parenting situations, this one probably ranks among the most distressing. The impulse for most parents is to scramble to compose themselves, then scramble to compose a lie. It’s better to remain calm, tell the truth in an age-appropriate manner, and contain the situation without making the situation a bigger deal than it is.

Situation 2

That awkward moment when your kid asks you why the lady at the market is “so fat” or why the male cashier sounds “like a girl.”

What to do: There is a growing body of research that suggests some biases are innate, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever appropriate for anyone of any age to make disparaging remarks about someone simply because he or she is different from “the norm.” First, if your kid makes a hurtful, inappropriate remark to someone, it’s always appropriate to apologize on your child’s behalf and/or have your child apologize if they are old enough to understand. Second, and more importantly, teaching children to appreciate, embrace and celebrate differences in all people will help them appreciate, embrace and celebrate the differences in themselves.

photo: Rahel Daniel via Unsplash

Situation 3

That akward moment when your kid is invited to more than one birthday party scheduled at the same time on the same day.

What to do: The first rule of kiddie birthday party etiquette is always to RSVP. The second rule of kiddie birthday party etiquette is always to RSVP. That means, first-come, first-served. If your child has been double-invited, honesty isn’t the best policy, it’s the only policy.

Situation 4

That awkward moment when you dislike your kid’s friend’s parents.

What to do: Spending time with the parents of your kid’s friends is inevitable. With playdates, parties and school events, parents are often forced to become friends with each other. But sometimes, parents of other people’s kids are irritating or unfriendly or simply not the kind of people you would choose to be friends with. The most important thing to remember: it’s not about you, it’s about your kid. Be polite and set limits. Inviting your kid’s friend’s parents to brunch is not a requirement to ensure that your kid has a happy and healthy social life.

Situation 5

That awkward moment when your kid asks why you drink so much.

What to do: There’s a common gag within some parenting circles about the (excessive) drinking habits of some moms and dads. While most parents likely don’t abuse alcohol, some may, and children who are raised in homes with parents who are even moderate drinkers are less likely to view their parents as positive role models. If your kid asks why you have to have a glass of wine every single day, you might want to ask yourself the same question. 

photo: Jerry Kiesewetter via Unsplash

Situation 6

That awkward moment when your kid insists on stripping down naked in public.

What to do: Unless you live in a community of nudists, there will be an awkward phase when your toddler insists on being naked pretty much all of the time—no matter the circumstance. Experts agree that this is common and reflects a developmental phase when toddlers are starting to master dressing and undressing. Rather than making a fuss or overreacting, teach your kiddo when and where you believe it’s the appropriate time and place to go au naturel.

Situation 7

That awkward moment when your kid discovers your stash of “adult” stuff.

What to do: Whether it’s a box of “medicinal herbs” or an “adult massager,” unless you keep your adult stuff under lock and key, it’s inevitable that your curious kid will one day discover it. The key to preventing an episode like this from escalating into a full-blown crisis is to remain calm, explain briefly (if somewhat vaguely) what’s what, then redirect your kid’s attention to something less controversial.

photo: Hunter Johnson via Unsplash

Situation 8 

That awkward moment when your kid tells your neighbors what you really think about them.

What to do: We’ve all had experience with annoying or nosey neighbors, but things can get awkward really fast if your kid innocently blabs to your neighbor that “my dad thinks you’re a jerk.” While good fences make for good neighbors, it’s unavoidable to see your jerky neighbor from time to time. If your kid has let the cat out of the bag about your true feelings, you should gently remind your kid there are some things that we keep to ourselves, so that we don’t hurt other people’s feelings. Or better yet, don’t talk about the jerky neighbors in front of your children. As for the terrible neighbors, there are plenty of helpful tips that can help to resolve the neighborly conflict.

Situation 9 

That awkward moment when your kid asks grandma and grandpa who they voted for president.

What to do: Few things can bring an otherwise pleasant family gathering to a screeching halt than raising the topic of politics in mixed company, especially when the extended family may have very different political points of view. Our kids often will parrot the social and political beliefs we espouse at home, which can lead to awkwardness if grandma and grandpa don’t feel the same way. While it’s best to avoid political talk, if the topic comes up, politeness and courtesy are the rules of thumb.

Situation 10

That awkward moment when your kid has an epic meltdown at the store/on a plane/at a restaurant/anywhere.

What to do: Parents often have one of two responses whenever our kids are in full-tantrum-slash-meltdown mode: we either choose to ignore it or we escalate the situation by freaking out ourselves. Children who are melting down often aren’t doing so to embarrass themselves or their parents. Experts suggest assessing the root cause of the tantrum and try to work through the issue to help calm down the kid. Assessing the triggers and modeling good behavior are the keys to ensuring that meltdowns are effectively managed.

—Kipp Jarecke-Cheng



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