The Honest Truth About Secrets (Episode 254)
Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone! Most everyone has heard this at some point in their lives, and typically it’s about kids keeping secrets from each other. But wow, I have heard story after story of how secrets, lies and deception have just ripped families apart. Our lesson today is an important one, and one that can be a pretty touchy subject.
We are up-front and honest with our children 100% of the time. However, this doesn't mean we tell them every detail of everything. This doesn’t mean they need to know every piece of news and carry the heaviness in the world.
When a child asks a poignant question that has depth to it, they deserve the respect to give them an answer. It doesn’t mean they have to be told every little fact and detail; yet they can be heard and answered.
Sometimes kids are ready to hear a truth, and other times, they can choose not to. Sometimes, they can simply choose to “believe in magic" or "stay innocent" or simply let us carry it for them until they are a little better able to handle it. They are kids, afterall, and we're to provide a safe place until they can handle things on their own, right?
A lot of times we are the ones placing the high expectations on a topic and giving it a lot more weight than what is needed.
There are conversations we have with each other where our kids want to know all the details. I can respect their curiosity, give them a “cliffs notes” version of what we’re talking about, and explain to them that this is a conversation that doesn’t relate or apply to them. There are times where it’s simply not their business, or they are too young for the topic.
No Secrets Does Not Mean A News Brief
No subject is taboo in our home. Everything is open to discussion. But this does not mean I sit my children down and give them a news brief every morning.
Our children don’t need to know everything. They don’t need the weight of the darkness and sadness in the world on their shoulders. I want to protect them from the pain as much as I can, but sooner or later, our children are going to see pain and hurt and the darker side of the world. I want them to always know the door is open for us to talk with them about anything. No topic is off limits, and we want to remain a safe haven to learn and ask questions.
Why Is This So Important?
No secrets promotes teamwork. When you keep secrets from your children, you’re supporting a hierarchy of who is “in the know.” Kids can sniff out lies easier than we give them credit for. We have to keep in mind that it’s not just our words, but our energy and unspoken body language that our children see. The heavy stuff – our “skeletons in the closet,” can run deep.
I have friends and family who grew up with secrets. The missing pieces – “Why did Daddy leave?” or “Where did the money go?” created confusion in kids. We are naturally inquisitive as humans. We want to know how things tick and why x + y = z.
Missing gaps don’t go unnoticed.
I don’t need to inform my children of everything going on in my life, yet when it affects my temperament; when my brain is elsewhere and I’m processing something heavy on my heart, the kids notice.
Let Your Children Witness
If it’s affecting you, your children deserve to know what’s going on. When we have emotional turmoil, this makes a big impact in our energy and how we are with everyone, including our children. To hide or compartmentalize our “issues” simply means we are choosing not to deal with them at the moment, and they will inevitably crop up down the road. Young children, especially, are egocentric. They typically believe most of life revolves around them. So when a child sees a parent having a hard time, the first thought is “what did I do?”
You perpetuate unhealthy emotion management when you hide and suppress. Use those moments of pain as a time to process and teach about a powerful way to deal with the emotions you are processing. You don’t have to hand off the pain, but you can be open about what you’re going through.
Don't Avoid the Hot Topics
It’s not just about pain, however. There are many topics that end up being taboo in a household. It may be about sex, drugs, or religion (affiliate link to a great book for religious literacy beyond what you may believe). Maybe it’s the “because I said so” discussion regarding curfew or why you are anti-whatever. Controversial issues in the world – the ones that are highly opinionated and much discussed – are going to present themselves to your children.
Be careful about delaying conversations that allow an opportunity for growth.
When you avoid controversial topics, it simply tells your children that your door is closed, and they need to go elsewhere to learn.
Keep An Open Door
The only tension we feel is our own - our need to answer and be “right.” Remember your most powerful hack - turn the question around to them to dig deeper? Where is their interest coming from? What sparked this curiosity? What might be going on in their heads? Before you answer, dig deeper with the intention.
This is how they learn. Your children are sponges. They are soaking everything up – both things said and unsaid. In our household, we have an open door policy. It’s not about dumping everything on them. We want to set the precedent that they can come to us with anything, and that means sometimes us even opening the door to a topic we know may be uncomfortable to navigate.
I created this printable to the left and would love to gift it to each of you as a download - you can snag it here.
Your children are going to ask you questions this week. Make it a point to be truthful with your answer, even if it’s simply “I don’t know” or “I’m not quite ready to talk about that with you.” The point is to be honest with where you are at – not simply pulling out every skeleton. Just start setting the precedent that your home has an open door for conversation.
No secrets doesn’t mean baring all and shoving it in people’s faces. It means being authentic and true to who and where you are at this moment - even if it’s simply saying, “I’m not ready to talk about it.”
Being open and honest goes beyond your kids. Look at bringing that honesty, integrity and authenticity into your whole life. Not baring all and being vulnerable to every person in this world. Honestly, there are some people who will not be good stewards of your heart, and it's okay to guard your heart and set boundaries. Yet when we are honest with ourselves and those people we care about, we create much deeper relationships. And we truly start to see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.