Ask Me Anything: Being Honest with Your Kids

This month we’ve focused on a few ways that your family can work to help end discrimination in your communities. A lot of those efforts start with having honest conversations about history and hate, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. Honesty is a trait we want all of our kids to carry with them in life, but the truth is often uncomfortable to tell our kids. How do we know what is appropriate to tell our kids as they grow up? Should parents be an open book, or are there things that we should wait to tell them when they’re older? 

Family therapists and counselors will often say that it’s important to always tell the truth to our kids, but how you tell them can change depending on their maturity level. The best example of this is explaining reproduction, babies, and relationships. There are very simple ways to start explaining these concepts to kids as young as 3, without needing too much details. As they age, you can fill in the gaps as they are able to handle more and more complex information. Instead of telling them a myth at first, like the story of the stork bringing babies to mommies and daddies, you start them off with a very basic foundation and build their knowledge. This confuses them less in the long run, and your kids come to trust you as a knowledgeable authority in their lives. 

What happens when you don’t know the answers to their many questions? Learn the answers together!  Create an environment where your kids feel comfortable to ask you their questions, because they certainly have a lot of them! Sometimes we can be tempted to make things up or share assumptions in an effort to look like you know the answers. But it’s ok to tell your kids that you don’t know something, and work together to find the information. Make a plan to visit a museum, take a trip to your local science center, or even find fun documentaries or informational videos online to learn information as a family.

Honesty in your family is very important, and when you model honesty to your kids, they will reflect it back to you. There are parts of family life, like parent relationships, that are very emotionally charged and difficult to discuss with the younger members of your family. Don’t hide these topics away. If your kids ask you a question that makes you uncomfortable, don’t shame them or tell them something is inappropriate to ask about. It may discourage them from coming to you with legitimate questions in the future. When you take the effort to share your feelings with your kids, they will know that they can trust you in the future to share theirs with you. As they get older, they may encounter troubles with friends and relationships, too, and knowing that they can come to you for help will make a huge difference in their life.