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.
Lesson #5: Love Is An Open Door
We are up-front and honest with our children 100% of the time. This does NOT mean we tell them every detail of everything. This doesn’t mean they need to know every piece of news and heaviness in the world.
What this means is, if they ask, we tell them the truth at the level in which they can understand it. They know about the birds and the bees in a factual way. They even know we have sex every day. However, we put a few parameters around it. We are open about love in every way, but it’s not like we invite them to watch us. We do, however, believe strongly that having open conversations about topics like sex are critical to them having healthy relationships. Some aspects of our lives are private, though, and our children don’t know every single thing we talk about.
There are boundaries
There are conversations we have with each other where children 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.
For example, they love the Les Miserables soundtrack. They know the gist of the story, but the issue of prostitution, especially when you add in the pain and poverty surrounding it in this play, is a deep and complex issue to explain to young children. So as Clara pried me for more answers, my honest explanation was simply this: “Hun, there will be a time when you’ll know all about this. But there are some topics that are heavy and sad and not something you need to know about right now. It’s always okay to ask questions. Just remember that you are only a child once, so enjoy this time and don’t get weighed down by what you cannot do anything about right now. We can bring this back up when you’re a bit older.”
I happen to have a lot of respect for Taylor Swift , and this sweet song is a reminder that we all grow up and cherishing the innocence of childhood is a beautiful thing. I look forward to every stage with my daughters, and I’m okay with them growing up. But I want to preserve their innocence in love as long as I can.
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?
I asked my husband to weigh in with his thoughts on why we don’t keep secrets from our children. He brought up a great point. No secrets promotes teamwork. 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 every thing going on in my life, but when it affects my temperament; when my brain is elsewhere and I’m processing something heavy on my heart, the kids notice.
Allow Your Children To See Your Pain
When my husband’s parents divorced two years ago, it brought a lot of turmoil and upheaval to the whole family. The ripple affect of that experience was pretty intense, and there were many emotions going through Nathan’s head. I remember the girls walking into the room when he was crying, and the affect it had on them. We didn’t have to lay out every single detail for our children. But it was important for them to understand that Daddy was sad, why he was sad, and that it was good for him to cry it out and process it.
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. 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. 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.When you avoid controversial topics, it simply tells your children that your door is closed, and they need to go elsewhere to learn.Click To Tweet
I want to be proactive in being open with my children. I can’t monitor their every move all their lives, and there are things they will discover and learn about from others regardless of whether I want them to. So our policy is be open with things that are going on in our lives and around us. No secrets does not mean play-by-plays. No secrets translates to no lying. Lying can be a flat-out denial, made up story, or simply omitting the truth. The issue with these is that when (not if) the lie comes out, it may be that the actual secret is irrelevant. But, the fact that you kept it from them – and that you lied about it – is highly relevant. Think about your own life. Since when was a relationship made stronger and trust built when a secret was uncovered? Our only exception on secrets is positive surprises for someone.
Keep An Open Door
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 just about dumping everything on them, but we want to set the precedent that they can come to us with anything. A few tips for keeping an open door and not having secrets:
Your Action Item for this week – 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.