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Mommying, sadly, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. And it isn’t even when they get the flu, or when they fall and skin their knees and you have to ply them with kisses and Minion Bandaids. No, those times are easy.
It’s when they get teased at school.
When they ask you if Santa is real.
Or when they dropped the ball or blew the shot that lost their team the game.
When your former husband, their still beloved Dad, doesn’t pick them up for whatever event he promised he’d take them to.
Or when Mom gets sick, really sick. Not sure if she’s going to make it sick.
THOSE are the times that suck, pardon my language, but there are times in parenting that just hurt so much there is no language strong enough to describe them.
Do you protect them? Lie to them to soften the blow? Or do you give them the whole painful truth and help them through it?
Like so much in parenting, of course, the answer is “it depends”.
I’m no prophet. I’m not a psychotherapist or priest. I’m just a mom who has done this lovely and demanding mother gig for twenty years now.
We’ve lived through our share of teasing and truth and failure and illness. Much of the time, those hard times made us stronger, stronger as people, stronger as a family.
Truth, even horribly painful truth, is, almost always, in my opinion, better than a lie. Truth will out, inevitably. In my opinion, best that they hear it from you and that you guide them through it. Age appropriate, for sure, but I’m a big fan of truth.
“Honey, everyone gets teased. It’s not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. Even so, I know it hurts and I’m sorry. I know one thing for sure though, I know you are strong enough to handle this.” (And then you call the principal and ask for a culture check on the classroom.)
When they asked about Santa, I said, “You know I will always tell you the truth. I will tell you the truth about Santa if you want to hear it. Are you sure you want to hear this right now?” Two of my three kids wanted the truth immediately. One thought and responded, “No, maybe not today.” And went another six months before they came to me and said, “I’m ready to hear about Santa now.”
When my kids fail, I don’t try to blame the other guy or the ref or the teacher. When my son broke the window at church (playing baseball INSIDE the building) he worked to earn the money to pay for it. When my daughter broke a fairly important family rule, she was grounded (she cried, and then, after our conversation, I went in my room and I cried too; I hate disciplining my kids.)
The more horrible truths, “Honey, I don’t know what your dad is thinking. I know he loves you, but I’m sure you feel disappointed and I’m so sorry.” “Ok, kids, mom and dad went to the doctor today …” are many times more painful, but your kids don’t want you to pretend nothing is wrong. They know, in some deep part of themselves, that something’s wrong, and they want to trust that you know too, and that you can handle it, and that you think they can handle it.
Life is hard. Sometimes really hard. Equip your kids to deal with it. Tell them you know they can handle it. Tell them they are strong enough. Tell them that you’ll be there to support and love them. Tell them that life is good, even though sometimes people hurt you.
Building a loving trust between you and your kids, raising kids that know they can handle the tough times, it’s more precious than gold. Harder than sunshine and rainbows, for sure, but just as important.