We hear a lot these days about being transparent.
We mostly think of being real in terms of what that looks like in adult relationships and friendships.
But…being vulnerable, authentic, and open doesn’t just apply to adult friendships. It can be implemented in our relationship with our kids, too.
Please hear me, I am not saying indiscriminately verbally vomit. With wisdom and discernment articulate what is appropriate to build connections with your kids.
Avoid saying, “At least you are not wrestling with _______.” We don’t need to enter into a competitive game of, “Who Has It Worse”. Or give a false perfection impression, “I never struggled with that because I did this.” Those comments are communication stoppers. and relationship killers.
If your child is distressed over with something, this is the time to get real and share one of your struggles at that age. (Give the cliff notes version.) “I understand. I struggled with ________ . ” This empathetic statement is a communication mover and a relationship bloomer.
Empathy in a relationship draws people together. Transparency creates a safe place to share. We want to be that safe place for our kids. We want our child to feel as if mom or dad gets it. This creates an atmosphere of trust and understanding.
Empathy normalizes adversity. The child feels less alone in his pain.
Sympathy separates people. It halts the exchange between individuals. Sympathy sounds like, “I’m sorry you feel bad.” The problem is then solely owned by one person. Sometimes sympathy discounts feelings by assigning value, “It sound bad but really, it’s not THAT big of a deal.” Or it dismisses the uncomfortable emotions altogether, “That stinks but tomorrow’s another day.”
Typically sympathy moves into solution mode before the individual is ready. “To feel better you should do this next….”
If we begin with empathy, we build a trust-based relationship with our children. If we are not derailed by their pain, our kids know we can handle it so they will be more likely to come to us the next time they are hurting.
We hate to have our kids hurt. We want them happy. We are not good with sad.
But… we don’t want our kids to be in a position to protect us from their struggles.
We don’t want to them to think we cannot relate to their lives. We don’t want them to feel unheard.
If we dismiss, discount, or the opposite…rescue our relationships will suffer and our kids will not experience the growth and stretching that comes from hard times.
Connecting through difficulties cements relationships.
We all learn from the struggles. We mature. We take responsibility. We become creative problem solvers. We develop perseverance. We gain compassion. We practice conflict responsibility.
Appropriate parental transparency allows kids the freedom to express themselves without shame so they are able to own their issues and– with God’s help and perhaps with ours– figure out how to resolve them.
After empathy (spurred on by transparency) has occurred, we can go to the next step and empower our kids to move forward toward the solution by asking permission to chime in, “Would you like some help?” or “I have complete confidence in your ability to deal with this. If you need me, I’m here.”
Transparency, vulnerability, and openness bring the fruit of grace and humility into a family.
Grace plus humility creates a Home Sweet Home.
© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.