Say This, Not That

Dear Ilana and Jess: My children, Addison and Penn, are 23 and 21. They’re both away at college, and it’s getting harder to keep the conversation alive. Now that they don’t need me for much, how do I keep us close? - Vanessa

Dear Vanessa: Setting aside the fact that they will always need you (You’re Mom!) there are plenty of things you can do to stay connected. Your adult kids share the responsibility of keeping in touch, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that you do so. Here’s how you can get the conversation started.

Make time for FaceTime. You may be able to get your message across via text, but that’s not the point. Conversation with family is about more than information exchange. Nothing substitutes seeing someone’s smile or hearing their laugh. Create a family group chat that can be used to update one another, share pictures, videos, and voice recordings. The more senses you incorporate, the better.

Elevate the conversation. They’ll always be your babies, but they’re your adult babies. Now that you’re not reminding them to put gas in the car, do their homework, or clean their bedrooms, there’s a big shift in the conversation. It’s not just about what you can do for them, but what they can do for you, and how you can all relate to one another. Your conversations should reflect this progression. Talk to your kids about interesting articles you’ve read or a documentary you watched. Better yet, share interesting articles/talks/news pieces directly. (See: Group chat).

Get a routine. Taking the initiative is something the kids will need to do for the rest of their lives – whether they’re organizing the holidays at their new place or just want to catch you on the phone before they head into work. Your relationships will be as close as you make them, so devote time consistently to connecting. Find a routine that works for you and the kids and hold them to it. For example, they might call you every Tuesday during their walk to classes/your commute to work. You might have lunch together remotely via FaceTime every Thursday. Whatever format works for you, just make sure it works consistently.

Say This: “Addison/Penn, I love you and I want to make sure we are staying connected, now that you’re out of the house. I’m going to create a group chat for us. I’d love to use it to update one another, share articles, talks, or anything we find interesting. I’d also like to schedule times that work for you to chat on a regular basis. Can you send me your schedule?”

Not That: “So, what’s new?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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