It’s important to have open and honest conversations with our children—to an extent. While we can offer great life lessons and wisdom by sharing our personal experiences and struggles, we should not make kids out to be our confidants. Sometimes, discretion is totally appropriate.
Bad Mouthing the Other Parent
Parents should NEVER speak ill of each other in front of the children, no matter the situation. Even if the other parent has done something wrong, the best practice is to NEVER bash them. Anyone who encourages a child to pick between parents is automatically in the wrong. If one parent bad-mouths the other, the gossip-rumor-scandal monger is accidentally or deliberately trying to steal away the purity of a child’s love for the other parent. This is emotional child abuse. Few behaviors cause more harm than the long-lasting damage sustained by innocent children who experience the tragedy of parental alienation.
Doubting our Children
Every child is different, each with special gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. A father’s expression of doubt in his children’s abilities can set in motion a perpetually negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Children who think of themselves as “less than” often stop trying. We can help them avoid the pitfalls of negative reinforcement by expressing belief in them and showing confidence in their abilities.
English historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, wrote, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” If we gossip in front of our children, they might internalize that gossip is useful. Realistically, gossip wastes time, erodes trust, facilitates divisiveness, and hurts both feelings and reputations. If people around us start gossiping, we can deflect the negative talk by assertively, good-naturedly, and almost mockingly, asking a question we know they cannot answer, “What did SHE say when you asked HER about this?” Gossip is for the small-minded; don’t do it.
If our children know we are struggling financially, they may develop anxiety and stress. Provided we are keeping a roof overhead and food on the table, it’s best to save them from undue worry.
Romance can get complicated; we may find ourselves wanting to vent. Our children are not sounding boards and should not have to deal with this kind of sharing. Even if they overhear us complaining about our partner, they may associate negative feelings towards “the culprit.” If or when things right themselves, we may have unknowingly caused them to harbor resentment that could have otherwise been avoided.
Children aspire to think the best of their parents, look up to us, and trust that we know what we are doing. If we confess self-doubt, but don’t do anything about it, we cast a cloud of pessimistic hopelessness. A father’s self-doubt, reflected in the eyes of his children, can lead to questions about safety and security, manifesting in the form of kids doubting both dad and themselves.
Sex & Infidelity
Certain boundaries should never be broken. Discussing “intimate moments” with children, whether from past or present relationships, is extremely inappropriate. While children will eventually learn about sexuality, intimate details about beloved parents or other adults should always be kept private.
Sins of adultery are driven by lust—they have absolutely nothing to do with children. To the extent that it’s feasible, refrain from exposing children to ANY internal conflict caused by tales of infidelity. Upon its discovery, children often react with intense feelings such as anger, sadness, and confusion. Children may feel pressured to “win back” the love of the unfaithful parent or “be the caretaker” of the betrayed parent. Both dad and mom will love their children for the rest of their lives. If we can, let them retain trust in both parents, after all, the betrayal was not against them—and they should not be led to believe that it was—even if indirectly. Completely innocent in any wars of attrition that come from tainted love, parents who use discretion can help children remain blameless in their own minds.
Fathers do our children a great service by avoiding potentially toxic conversations. By staying away from inappropriate oversharing, we protect the sacred innocence of youth. While openness is typically best and honesty is one of the most important of all virtues, sometimes, the most appropriate response is to tell a child, “We’re going to shelve this conversation until you’re an adult.”
“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Words are powerful vehicles to convey thoughts and emotions. Joyce shows how to cultivate talk that is healthy, constructive, and healing.
Don’t let your words bring cursing or destruction to yourself and those you love. Choose words which speak life into the world around you.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.