To Tell Or Not To Tell?

As we know on this journey of life we get hit with the good, bad and the ugly. It can be so stressful at times depending on what we are hit with and when. As adults we barely make it through these trials, moments of stress and worry. Do you ever wonder how a child would? Do you keep information from your child in hopes to avoid them going through the same emotions as you? I get it as parent we want to protect our children but here it is….. In this life we will have trials and as parents we have to provide our children with the tools necessary to deal with what’s going to come our way. So the answer to my initial questions is an easy YES ( in an age appropriate manner)

Did you know that children are selfish BEINGS? ( Stay with me, they live in a world that revolves around them, their family, friends school and a few other things. As parents we teach them as they grow that there is more to just them and we help expand their world.

To tell or not to tell?:

Divorce: My parents divorced when my oldest and twins were young. They didnt grow up seeing them together. I would say approxiamately 3 years ago they started asking questions about my parents and why they didnt live at the same house etc. Josiah’s friends parents had recently got divorced. I will never forget the day because him and I were on a road trip. He came out and said I wished you and daddy were divorced. I’m pretty sure if I had taken a sip of my coffee I would have spit it out. In shock I asked him why. He said his friends parents had divorced and she got to live in two homes, have two bedrooms and get lots of birthday and Christmas gifts. I had to think quick and I explained to him what divorce meant and that he wouldn’t want us to become divorced. I explained my parents had and how much it sucks being an adult when this happens let alone being a kid and going through that. I didnt go in depth regarding their reason as to why. I was honest in telling him and the twins how are family looks like now. What I have told the kids is sometimes people who are married get divorced because something bad happens with their relationship. They try to make it better but over time after trying they can’t problem solve or come up with solutions to make it better. I let them know that this is not always the case for everyone. I didn’t want them to worry if they saw my husband and I have a disagreement.

Sickness: I know my husband and I may be in our own group regarding this category. We are firm believers of telling our children when someone they know, love and care for is ill. Last January my mom came very close to dying. When I got the phone call of her state I immediately broke down. My poor kids saw this but in the moment I went from mother to child bawling for my mom and was in no shape to mother. This is where the best tag team partner ever my husband stepped in and told the kids briefly that “grandma had to be rushed to the hospital and him and I were going to see her.” They cried too, were worried and then prayed some wonderful prayers that made me cry even more. Now once we got a diagnosis for my mom we knew it would be a long road to healing. I didn’t want to tell the kids the severity of the situation and for a week I didnt. I will never forget Malachi saying to me while I was headed out on hospital visit #4. “Why do you have to keep going to see grandma she is not going to die.” I realised in that moment we had not talked to them in detail regarding her state. I went into depth of her situation, why she physically looked the way she did at the time, that she would be at the hospital for a long time and why I was going to visit so much. Without explainging this to them their little brains were led to think so many different things. Often we spend so much time focusing on how we are feeling we dont stop to ask how the kids are. They wanted to be involved but visits werent an option until a month later. They wanted to be involved so they would write letters, take pics and have me send, they face time’d, have me take items, ask to record videos so I could show her what they were up to. My grandma is in her last days and I really wanted the kids to see her even though I know she was worried they would be frightened because of how different she looks. I prepared the kids prior to so it was not huge surprise. The visit was short and sweet. Afterwards we talked on the drive home. I asked them how they felt after seeing her. Malachi asked me if she was going to die. Holding back my tears I told them that yes we just dont know when. I had taken a moment to respond and at first hesitated. This is reality and life is so easy to talk about but death not so much. We are a Christ centered family and the prayers they have prayed for their GG have been almost daily. It was a good reminder and teaching moment when I reminded them our prayers are not always answered the way want them to be. My boys cried and my daughter sat their stunned. They talk about her daily and ask for updates. The children havent witnessed a loved one dying and it’s going to be a very hard time when it happens.

1. In these moments let kids know it’s ok to cry or just sit there. Everyone expresses their feelings differently it’s good to remind them of this.

2. Once the tears have stopped ask them what feelings they have. Acknowledge what they say and let them know it’s ok to feel that way.

3. Ask them if they have any questions and remind them to ask in days to come.

4. Check in with them daily. This is not easy for adults to process let alone kids. If behaviours change that could be a red flag that something is on their mind. I personally love the quality of conversation I get at bed time. I usually ask them and get “verbally dumped”on which is exactly what I want. We dont want our kids having to deal with worries, thoughts and other feelings all day long.

World issues: Do you know the conversations your kids have at school? My oldest came out and told me last school year “Donald Trump is the worst president ever!” My first thought was how do you know his name. He had said at school kids had been talking about him taking kids away from their parents. These conversations are natural for kids but I wanted to explain what was really happening and why. Being a Social Worker I have seen a lot of life stressors over the years. If my kids took this part over they would say. We know there are kids in India, Africa and many other places that dont have food, a home or clothes. They also know the same to be true in the city they live in. They know life isn’t always easy for kids and adults. While at Canada’s Wonderland this past summer they saw a mom fully yelling terrible and embarrassing words to her daughters face. After we walked by they commented on how mean the mom was and that maybe that girl should go to a good foster home. Guess they have been paying attention to what I use to do.

No we dont tell our kids everything but honestly we make life very real to them. The benefit I have seen personally with parents who do this the natural selfishness kids are just born with tends to disappear. Parents who literally ” keep it real” are teaching their children there is more to life than just them, their wants and desires. The compassion and thoughtfullness that comes from this is so marvelous to watch.

8 thoughts on “To Tell Or Not To Tell?”

  1. I absolutely love this post. It’s such an important topic all parents must face. My daughter is still so young (1 year and a half) but I often think about how we are going to discuss these things in the future. This is a great example of what to do and I totally agree with your point of view! We also are a Christ centered family and I love how your kids are learning to pray and accept when things don’t go the way we want! Great job! Can’t wait to read the next post!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m glad you found the examples helpful. Unanswered prayers can be hard to accept for anybody. Teaching the kids this reality has been helpful as they continue to grow.

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  2. Children ask so many questions! I can handle the divorce ones. It’s the sex ones I have no idea how I would respond to.

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  3. This is a great peice! I am saving because I am certain these conversations will come up at some point in my children’s lives. Thank you for sharing your input!

    -Megs

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  4. I love this. Seriously, I don’t think anyone really talks about what how much information should be shared with kids. And you make some really good points.
    I was raised in a home of censorship, code words, white lies, & strict repression of topics that made my mom uncomfortable. I don’t hold that against her, I realize it was her own fears that caused it. But because of my upbringing, I strongly believe my kids should have age appropriate truth. So I give them the truth (although sometimes it’s just light brushstrokes of truth if it gets into territory I don’t think they can handle). My parents complain that I tell them too much. My friends think I deprive them because they don’t believe in Santa. But here’s the thing: The kids love Christmas, & knowing Santa isn’t real doesn’t diminish their joy of singing songs about him coming to town.
    Kids are smart. If we take time to talk throught the tough stuff and make sure to show them hope or a silver lining, they can handle those hard talks.
    Thanks for starting this conversation!

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