An age-old debate between parents of all generations is whether or not you should lie to your kids.
Stating it bluntly, it seems harsh. But the reason that most parents lie is because they are concerned about their children’s ability to understand the truth. We think we are protecting their emotions when we decide that lying is easier for them, but sometimes that leaves them feeling inadequate.
Truth-telling started at an early stage in my parenting journey.
At that time, I was doing my research on separation anxiety in infants because ours was going through that stage. I happened to read an article that stated you had to tell kids when you were leaving; you had to be honest. If you told them you were leaving, they trusted that you were staying when you were there. It wasn’t a constant guessing game on whether Mom was going to be here in 5 minutes or not because she just randomly steps out. So at 9 months, I started doing that.
I’ve kept the honesty train rolling with questions of all sorts – sex, body parts, periods, lactation rooms, sexuality, explaining divorces, and how our family became blended. Mostly because it was easier for me to remember the truth than the lies I had created.
Now that Z is 5, I still tell her when I’m leaving, including trips for work that are weeks away. She also knows that “Mom will always tell you the truth, even if it hurts sometimes.”
Now don’t get me wrong: I still lie about normal parenting stuff.
“No, there is no more ice cream left.”
“If you keep picking your nose, your nostrils will stretch out.”
“No snacks until dinner” (as I’m hiding behind the pantry door with candy.)
(This also includes skipping pages during nighttime books if I’m really at my wit’s end for the day.)
In totality, I hope that if I tell her the truth, she will trust me. And if I can find a way to continue this openness, maybe she will come to me when she really needs me, to ask me questions or tell me something that is going on.
Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable when I have to explain where babies come from at 5 years old or why certain people look different. The hardest was telling her that someone close to us was dying, and not sheltering her from that experience to process it emotionally. It would definitely be easier to lie and protect her from those feelings or emotions.
Here are some tips I use to know when and how to tell the truth:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for time before discussing something. We all know that car rides are full of questions and the last thing you want to get yourself into is discussing serious topics while focusing on the road. Try this, “It’s hard for me to give you the attention I need to tell you about this important topic. Let’s talk about it later today.” Then talk about it!
- Use real words. Calling body parts their real name, or explaining something like “menstruation” is part of the truth.
- You might be uncomfortable but they aren’t. They want to know and want to hear it from you, the person they trust the most.
- Be cognizant of other families. Make sure your child knows when to keep this private and not tell other kids, or at least not shout it out in public.
Not on board yet to tell the truth? No problem! Continue researching to find what makes you comfortable as a parent!
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