Talking to our kids about sensitive matters can be tricky. Kids by nature are curious, and as parents, we want to protect them from too much information.
I have had a recent experience where I had to talk to my four sons about my complicated past with my parents. My parents lived an airplane ride away, and for years my husband and I were able to get away with telling our sons that it was too expensive for us to fly to see them. I felt guilty that I was denying them the opportunity to know their grandparents, but knew that it was best.
My husband’s parents live locally and attend my son’s sporting events, birthdays, and family events. As my sons got older, they were aware of the difference in our family relationship with my parents vs. my husband’s parents.
I cringed one day as my 12-year-old asked me why we could go on an upcoming vacation, but couldn’t go see his other grandparents. I knew that he needed more information and carefully crafted my answer. I explained that my parents had hurt me when I was younger, and I didn’t want my parents to be able to hurt my kids.
After my father died in 2013, I started speaking and writing about my experiences as an abused child in order to help others heal. I knew that there was a good chance that my sons would hear parts of my story. My past is a complicated one that includes an alcoholic mother and sexually abusive father.
My sons were 17, 16, 14, and 10 when I told them about my complicated relationship with my parents. I approached it differently with each of my sons – and the information I provided for my 17-year-old was not the same as that for the 10-year-old.
Our children’s reactions to hearing sensitive subjects can be very different. Some may have many questions, while others need time to process the information and internalize it. The important thing is that we follow-up and see if we can help them by answering questions or talking it through with them.
I was careful not to express emotion as I explained what had happened to me. One of my sons was visibly upset and sad for what I had endured. Another was angry and continues to have difficulty understanding how no one knew. I assured them that I had survived for a reason, and that my purpose was to help others.
As parents, we need to be sensitive to our kids’ ability to deal with life’s “not fair” moments. As much as we want to protect them, the process is part of giving them the tools they need for life. Most importantly, we need to let them know that we are there for them and will help them get through the tough stuff.
Tracey Casciano is a passionate speaker and writer who shines light through encouraging words as a blogger, speaker, and writer to help others who may be suffering or doubting themselves on their current path in life. After a childhood with an alcoholic mother and abusive father, her love for the Lord helped rise above her past. She describes this in her book, “Out of the Darkroom, Into the Light: A Story of Faith and Forgiveness After Child Abuse.” She is happily married and in the midst of raising four wonderful sons. Tracey has a background in Special Education, has taught History in public high school for eight years, and has been a missionary in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Learn more about Tracey and her book at her website, on her blog, twitter , and Facebook page.
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