When Are Kids Ready To Know?

I am often asked by clients or other parent-friends, “My son/daughter asked me “X” the other day. How do I know when it’s right to talk to my kids about [sensitive topics]? And, what should I say?”
This is a common concern for any parent, or, frankly, any adult with children or teens in their lives who they are close with. Here are a few things to think about, in order to find your right response:Parents Talking To Kid
When they ask, they are ready.
Sounds simple. And it is…somewhat. If a child or teenager has had the wherewithal to think about a particular matter, have a concern or question arise about that matter, and they have the courage to come out and ask about it, that tells me that they have readiness to get some answers.
Acknowledge your relationship.
It also tells me that there is some level of close relationship between you and that child, which provides enough comfort for him or her to be able to come to you. That is worth acknowledging, at the very least to yourself, that something you’ve done or some way you have been has allowed for this openness.
They want the truth.
Given that they are ready and you have the basis of the relationship you seem to have, respond with honesty. No matter how old we are, we want the truth. This honours your relationship, while honouring each of you. Honesty also provides added confidence for that young person to know that they can come to you again in the future and trust they’ll get the truth. In addition, this confidence transcends your relationship and can contribute to that young person’s personal strength in life, as well as their relationships going forward.
You get to choose what you say or not.
While you want to be honest, you also are the adult and want to bring discretion to what you share or what you don’t share. You don’t need to give unnecessary details. And, you also don’t need to share any information that could make another person look bad.
Make it safe for them to emote and react.
Depending on the topic at hand, the child may react with some emotion. They might be sad and they might cry. They might be upset or angry, and either withdraw or stomp away or let you have a piece of their mind. They may be calm, silent, or say little. Every person (including you and me) has a way of processing new information and reacting physically or emotionally. The key here is that whatever the reaction, it usually has a particular ‘life span’. In other words, it passes. If you and I let them express safely, usually it comes up, gets out, and clears away. If you and I react to their reaction, we add ‘weight’ to the emotion, keeping it around longer than it typically needs to be.
I encourage you to consider these things and incorporate them into your own value system as you see appropriate. I wish you the best with your commitments for peaceful and loving relationships.

We Divorced But Remained A Family!

Big Family Pic
I want to share something personal and meaningful with you…
Last Sunday was my daughter’s 6th birthday party. She just started a new school this year in the new neighbourhood we just moved to. To support her social acclimatization, we invited her whole class. We also invited a group of friends from her previous daycare and our old neighbourhood, in order to keep those connections alive, as well as other family and friends.
Who was there? 10 classmates, 5 daycare friends, 1 family friend, and…my first husband’s son from his new wife and our 2 grown sons.
Who organized the party? My daughter’s father, his wife and myself.
Many people have asked me, “How is it possible to truly have peace during and after divorce? And, for the whole family?”
The answer to that question has become my personal life mission – making THAT possibility a reality for other families.
The first answer is – in both my separations we dealt with our relationship breakdowns separate from our bigger commitment for our children’s success and well-being. Through many conversations (not always easy ones) we reached a conclusion that just because our relationship was not going to stay intact in a marital context, that didn’t mean that we couldn’t still have a ‘family context’ in which to raise our children.
With both of our intentions and attentions aligned on that bigger picture of “Family” we were able to design a family life that looks different than how we had originally imagined it when we first got married yet in a way that we were inspired by.
And, the second answer is – keep true to that bigger picture through maintaining our values, no matter what issues arise.
What does that mean? Well, you have values, right? For me, some of my values are family, open communication and our children being nurtured and fulfilled. When things get difficult, as life often does, it is easy for emotions to interfere and get in the way. And then we don’t behave in a way that we are so proud of. It is in those moments that our values are the most critical.
For example, I remember shortly after my first separation when my sons came home after a weekend with their dad. As they shared about their weekend a particular woman’s name was mentioned several times. So I asked, “Who is that?” “Oh, that is Dad’s friend.” I took a quick and very deep breath, and on the exhale let go of my annoyance and frustration with their Dad. (!!!) And, without changing my tone of voice or body language I completed the chat with my sons.
I later phoned my ex-husband and calmly shared about the situation, just as it happened without any judgement, and asked, “Can you and I talk first about new people we are bringing into our lives before introducing them to the children?”
Now, if it was my “annoyance and frustration” speaking? I don’t think that conversation would have gone very well.
But with my Values speaking? So much more pleasant! I could simply tell him what happened and ask for what I think is in our and our children’s best interest. Nobody is made guilty or to blame. Rather we are communicating with the purpose of realizing the bigger picture we said we want. And, we did come to an agreement to talk first before introducing the kids to new “friends.”
All of this takes practice. Yes, like anything important to us, we need to practice and sometimes not be successful but keep on practicing.
This past Sunday my daughter’s party was a result of years of this kind of practice.
Having my first husband, his wife, our 2 sons and their son…plus my daughter’s father and step mother…and not-to-mention, my beloved fiancé (this is a beautiful story for another time), all in one room together, laughing, talking and enjoying the party, makes all the years of practice SO worth it – for everyone.