When you were a kid, how much did you want to tell your parents? Often, parents are the last confidants for children, especially teens. While in some cases there is a strong parent-child relationship, in others, there’s almost no connection. This can be a dangerous disconnect, especially in matters of abuse or mistreatment.
It’s important that your kids know they can always talk to you in times of need. Whether they’re five or fifteen, life will always throw challenges their way that they might require help to navigate. If they can’t confide in their parents, then who should they go to? Friends? Teachers? Coaches?
You are the first line of defense. Here’s why you should always make sure your kids understand that they can talk to you about anything.
You May Be Their Only Confidant
When your kids need to talk to someone, you might very well be their only confidant. Often, kids feel like anyone but family will judge them for poor decisions, embarrassing things like puberty, or even more serious matters like abuse or illegal activities. Sometimes, their only support comes directly from you—the parent.
It’s important to be as non-judgmental as possible during these moments, even with things that are upsetting. Getting overly upset at your child could result in them pulling away, and once that bridge is burned, it’s very difficult to rebuild. It’s better to save your reactions for the appropriate time, and be there in support when they first confide in you. Yes, you should be a parent first, but parenting is more than just discipline; it’s also about teaching your children to properly handle their emotions.
You’ll be doing them a great service by listening, understanding, and being there whenever they need you. Your kids will always remember that you’re they’re strength in hard times, and that’s a special bond to share.
They Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Tell You Things
Causing your children to fear you is the best path to pushing them away entirely. Some parents believe that fear is the best way to keep children in line, but the truth is, using love and support is more effective than fear. Fear teaches a child that you are a force to be reckoned with, and, instead of a support figure, you’re only a disciplinarian. It’s very difficult to address feelings through fear, and once you’ve instilled fear, it’s challenging to remove.
Imagine if a child is too afraid to talk to you, and they’re being sexually abused, mistreated, or openly discriminated against. Wouldn’t you want to know these things so you can take action? How is a child who fears you supposed to confide in you about their sexual abuse? Their discrimination?
Don’t create an atmosphere of fear and doubt at home. Temper your emotions when you talk to your children, and when they tell you things that may upset you. Remember that you are the example, and they’re watching your actions and words closely.
Abuse Is Often In The Family
Often, the people that abuse children sexually or violently or even verbally are family members, friends, and allies. This disturbing fact means that your child shouldn’t be afraid to talk to you, because something could be occurring under your very nose and you wouldn’t even know about it. Sexual abuse is especially common among family members, which is disturbing and unsettling for many parents to come to terms with.
Abuse is something you want to discover as soon as possible, and the best way to do so is to ensure that your child can trust you and confide in you. The sooner you spot and put an end to abuse, the better off the child will be. Sexual, verbal, and physical abuse can leave long-lasting scars that children will grapple with well into adulthood.
Some Things Are Very Difficult To Talk About
Remember that you don’t always have to push your child to reveal things to you. Some things are very, very difficult to talk about, even for adults! Trauma can be especially difficult to address, and the best place to do so might be under the guidance of a professional. Forcing children to open up can feel like a breach of privacy.
You want your kids to come to you naturally. This means fostering trust through an open, honest, and supportive environment. If they trust you, they’ll come to you when they’re ready, and not before.
The Bottom Line
Kids are among the most vulnerable of our population. It’s up to us as parents to provide love and support and to ensure that our kids can confide in us and trust us with their most sensitive concerns. Remember that fear-based parenting doesn’t build bridges, and can cause a child to pull away rather than open up. Love, support, and trust are the best tools you have.