My daughter doesn’t want to have kids because she doesn’t want to eat a baby and poop it out her butt. The stressed-out look on her face inferred her mind had been troubled with this scenario for some time, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t give all the details at that point (she was five at the time), but I did tell her that babies grow from within your tummy area, and they sometimes come out of your vagina, or in my case – your tummy.
The cutting a baby out also sounded like a bad deal to her, so our conversation led into the opinion that she doesn’t want to have children and that birth control exists. I know children way older than her who still don’t know how babies are born. To me, this is ridiculous. I remain age-appropriately transparent with matters that are biological. My children know about my period, too. I don’t want them to think periods are shameful, or that childbirth isn’t a beautiful, wholesome event.
This all being said, complete honesty and transparency is clearly not always suitable. I’m fortunate to have clients from several different backgrounds, and one is a psychologist who specifically deals with children and family units. I’m also fortunate that although I serve the clients, they end up being invaluable sources of friendship, rewarding work, and advice.
Here is an overview of my psychologist friend’s sage advice. First, balance is key when it comes to parent-child communication. For instance, when communicating about the future, ensuring success for the child and omitting the plausibility of hardship is harmful. But on the other hand, saying the world is full of hardship, mistrust, and hopelessness is equally harmful. Both of these parents actually hold the same goal with their communications–to set their child up to be adequately prepared. Instead, they are making the mistake of coloring an unrealistic world for the child to view.
The next point is parental self-disclosure. We feel as though we know our kids like the back of our hands and want them to know us as well. However, there is a certain distance to achieve to be viewed as a stable figure and show kids that the household is stable by extension. Parts of our history, financial security, marital/relationship security, legal troubles, problems with substances, and negative opinions of another parent or child are all areas to avoid. Again, I believe parents sometimes share these things to better equip their children to journey through life. However, opening up about adult topics before kids are ready can later culminate in the manifestation of anxiety, acting out, or parentification of the child.
In the end, it is comforting to know that we don’t have to strive for perfection, there is no 100% “right way.” My parents have always held the belief that saying swear words around children is wrong, but I openly swear around mine. We communicate differently, but neither is necessarily wrong. In fact, this article says I’m more in the right – take that, mom and dad. I kid, but amidst my swear words, I’m not going to tell the kids I drank too much because I felt depressed, or that the checking account is dangerously low, or that my partner and I had a fight so bad I thought about walking away.
Babies out the bootie are one thing, but I have also stood firm on my rights and privacy as a parent when my kids have inquired how much money I have. I reply that it simply is not their business. As I said above, you do know your children better than anyone. When they ask a question of you on a topic you haven’t covered yet, try to answer with as much information as you deem appropriate, and aim to do no harm.