How honest are you with your children?

How honest are you with your children?

Last week the dentist told us H needed a root canal. He was blissfully unaware of the discomfort about to come his way, thanks to the wonderful paediatric dentist he went to when he was younger. I, on the other hand, was more than aware of what it entailed having undergone a rather painful procedure in my thirties.

I tried to not let my anxiety show but it must have been somewhat apparent because H asked me, ‘Will it hurt?’ Torn between reassuring him and being honest I hmmed and hawed and tried to get away with a noncommittal answer. I should have known better because H has the knack and persistence of a badger when it comes to exacting precise information.

Finally I told him it would hurt but that he would be on painkillers so he’d be okay. Rather than finding it reassuring it freaked him out to the extent that he tried to tell me he was quite fine and didn’t need the treatment after all.

That made me wonder if it would have been better had I not told him it would hurt. Perhaps it really wouldn’t, given that I had chosen this particular dentist on the recommendation of a friend whose son had sailed through a root canal without much trouble. I wondered if I had made H needlessly anxious.

When the kids are young it is easy to fob them off with simplistic truths or with a distraction. As they grow, however, their queries become more layered and they want honest, precise answers.

So what I want to ask you is How honest do you think one should be with one’s children? More specifically, with one’s teen? More so, when it isn’t something as straightforward as a root canal.

When they talk to you about complicated relationships (with friends and teachers and believe me when I say, it can get really complicated), about life choices, about friendships gone wrong… how honestly do you answer them? Would you warn them about the pitfalls they might encounter or would you rather they go ahead with innocent enthusiasm and figure it out for themselves? Do you worry that your constant warnings might turn them into suspicious over-thinkers (That’s rather ironic, given that you’re overthinking this whole thing in the first place).

I know I do.

It’s a tough one.

A lot will obviously be guided by our own experiences and attitude but I sometimes wonder if, in our bid to tell them ‘as it is’, we end up over-sharing details that really aren’t necessary and we mess their world view. That the children are growing up, means we can talk to them more freely yet they don’t need to know everything about the world in all gory detail. Sometimes it is okay to leave them to find out things on their own.

That might of course mean that they will sometimes fall on their faces, they will get hurt but those are the lessons they will remember forever, way better than the ones we tell them about.

18 Replies to “How honest are you with your children?”

  1. It’s really tough. But I guess it also depends on the temperament of the child. Some are able to handle a little bit more truth than others. Even then I guess I will not break their naive view of the world. It’s what makes their childhood special. Your kid will trust you to be truthful even if it makes him anxious.
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  2. It is definitely complicated. Yet, I think I will choose honesty over anything else. Like you, I too overthink about the oversharing which happens more than often with the kid about things he doesn’t need to know at his age and voice out my caution and concern to husband who gets into this mode as if on autopilot mode. And there are times I am myself guilty of doing it. There are no easy answers.

    1. Perhaps because we spend much more time with our children than our parents ever did we end up over-sharing. Also because of the nuclear family setup. There are such few other adults to explain things that we have to be the only judge of how much and what to tell our children.

  3. I try to be age appropriately honest with my son. And sometimes when I over share he stops me and says that he doesn’t understand and will revisit the topic later. Another thing with my kid is now when I reply that it would be a difficult concept for you to understand he replies okay tell me when I am 10 or 12. He is 9 now. I am a brutally honest person, so I feel he feels the need to stop me for his own sake.
    I faced this dilemma to share or not when he was around 5 -6 when he was adamant to know everything. I am sure things will change again and I will face such dilemmas again. With my 2nd one, I feel there is no way I can hide anything – he came out of my tummy knowing everything, I mean everything. 😀
    I hope the procedure goes smoothly. I had gone through it twice before, it is a rather unpleasant procedure, but pain was bearable for me. I hate lying down with my mouth open when I can’t talk or eat!

    1. Younger ones always seem to know everything :-). Your older one sounds so sensible. Sometimes this is the best thing to do – to simply tell them that they’re too young to understand.

  4. I guess it also matters how u share your experience . If it’s like an advice then you are cautioning then . If it’s just a story about your journey . It’s more like reading a book and then maybe using it when required . However it’s entirely they decision to experience it or go by it . It could be sometimes possible that they handle situations much better than we would have handled .
    It going by the moment and each person would need to take a call then . Impromptu parenting decision .

    It’s definitely not easy though .

  5. Honestly, I feel I need to share my experiences with my son. But there have been times when he has turned around and told me to let him experience it for himself before he makes a judgment on anything. Even if it means that he might fall and learn. However, mothers that we are…no matter how rational our minds work, our hearts will always insist on cautioning them.
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  6. Hmmmm…..quite a toughie, this one.
    I do try and be as truthful as I can with my pre-teen nephew. I usually share all I know and admit it when I am unaware about certain things. And, I too have noticed that when I am honest, it does backfire, in that, he becomes apprehensive about that particular thing, and I wonder if I am making him an anxious soul, like myself!
    Will wait and see what the parent-readers reply to this question. 🙂

    1. That’s exactly what happens with me. Complete honesty is often counter-productive. Oh and admitting to not knowing something is ever so important. That builds trust. We often end up discussing together of what might happen and how people react differently.

  7. It is complicated as you mentioned. Total honesty, even with adults, can backfire. So, I try to be honest while still witholding bits that do more harm than good. Like you said, it is not as easy because teens can catch you. It is tricky. Root canal is horrid, BTW. I had the toughest time with it so I can understand your anxiety. But no two people are same and children are more resilient and that is what I tell them with all honesty.

    1. Children are resilient – that’s something I need to remember. They’re capable of much more than we give them credit for. As they grow we can be more and more honest with them. Mine have just entered their teens and are at the stage when they think they can take anything, understand anything but are actually still kids. This is such a delicate balance.

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