Don’t talk to your kids about your problems! Or should you?

parents are sharing their problems with kids - Parenting resources by ZenParent

Maintaining a stoic silence, putting up an act and presenting a perfect picture in front of kids ensures they respect you, look up to you as their role model and learn to emulate you. Why unnecessarily burden kids with your problems and depress them, right? Maybe not.

James Lehman a noted psychologist and columnist has this to say:

“I think parents often make the mistake of making their child their confidante. So when they say, “I want to be his friend, and I want him to be my friend,” what they’re really saying is “I want be his confidante.” And that just does not fit with the functional role of a parent.”

And I agree with him!

Oh am I sounding contradictory? Not really. There is a difference. When parents consider their kids to be their friends by sharing with them their thoughts, opinions and misgivings, they basically equate their position with their kids. They pass on the message to them that they are joint decision makers and they share the same ideologies about life. That is incorrect. Kids cannot be co–decision makers and parents can’t and don’t have the same notions or ideologies about life as their 14 year olds.

By being friends, parents do stand a chance ( I am not saying for sure) to lose out on respect and obedience from kids and that is what has been probably feared over generations, forcing parents to maintain a certain level of dignity and distance.

But let’s put that aside. Let’s say, for example, your kid is seeing you being mistreated or downplayed by your spouse or in laws very often and consistently. The fact is that he knows it is affecting you, whether you choose to respond or bring it up or not. Kids are smart. So if you are thinking that by avoiding talking about the problem makes it disappear in their minds, you are probably wrong. And since the level of curiosity is high, he has also started wondering about the situation and has begun drawing misguided conclusions.

parents makes kids to think wrong about their problems - Parenting resources by ZenParent

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  1. If my parent prefers to suffer in silence and endure then that is what he /she wants. It means I can push the boundary a little too and my parent will be ok with it!
  2. My parent is my role model and if my parent exhibits that the best way to deal with an issue or a problem is to not discuss it , avoid thinking about it and let it resolve on its own, then I also have to deal with my problems in the same way!
  3. There are no problems in my parent’s life and if I have problems in mine then my life is NOT normal. I have to be tough and perfect all the time!

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I am sure no parent wants their kid to grow up with these lessons.  But what you can do is turn the situation in your favour and help your kid grow emotionally. You can begin by letting your kid know that yes it is a real problem and show your human side by telling them that you are saddened by it. You can continue by pointing out that problems are a part of everyone’s lives, that they can be solved and are definitely not the end of the world. Further you can reinforce strongly that you are not going to leave them unresolved, are in complete charge and know what you are going to do.( you don’t need to share the details of your plan with them but if they have suggestions you can take those in politely).

And lastly one very important thing you need to keep in mind is that you are out to solve the problems and not increase them so you have to talk about the unfortunateness of the situation and not criticise the person in question. Your kid only needs assurance and is not in a position to be a counsellor.

give hope to your kids about your problems - Parenting resources by ZenParent

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