Parenting in bad times

It can be easy to parent during good times when you can be the parent you imagined yourself to be with the resources you need to help you do that. Today I talked with a parent who is going through the worst of times and it is often at those times that parents feel they can’t make things better for their children.

Sometimes parents don’t talk about things, or hide their feelings or make up stories about events to make them seem better or feel better. Sometimes parents don’t tell their children about changes that are coming because they don’t want to worry them and want to protect them. Sometimes parents tell their children lies because the truth of things is too unbearable.

If you are having a difficult time and feel yourself starting to make up stories or conceal facts or give complicated analogies with fictitious characters or hide your feelings perhaps ask yourself if you are doing this to protect your child or to protect yourself?

The thing is children don’t do well with untruths of any sort and they don’t do well with things being hidden. Children do well with truth, congruence and transparency. There is a balance to be struck between giving children information they can’t understand and that is harmful for them and giving them enough truth so they can process their lives and make sense of their own feelings, and getting that balance is the tricky part.

Spend time working out how you will talk about it, not how you will tell them, there is a difference. Think about how you will give them the facts in a way they can understand. Tell them as soon as you know, don’t hold secrets in your family because secrets cause problems. For the most part it is ok for children to see their parents cry occasionally as long as they also see their parents recover.

Think about what your child is witnessing, what they are learning from this life experience. If you can show them that sometimes life presents a curve ball, that sometimes there are tragic, sad or unexplained events but they can remain in one piece through it then a valuable lesson for them has taken place. Remember that a child will often blame themselves first so make sure your child knows they are not to blame and make your focus how you can support your child to continue to feel safe and loved in difficult times. And as always talk but most importantly listen.

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