My guest author today is Mamita J, author of the blog, Life with Mamita. Like me, she has been on a crash course in parenting a child with a traumatic background. She has great insight and I hope you enjoy getting to know her.
Kids deserve the truth.
Kids need the truth.
Telling the truth. It’s always been important, but it became essential when our little trauma-challenged girl (Cupcake) came home.
Truth and trust go hand in hand. If we are not truthful, she will not trust us. This is true in everything, from the daily routine to exciting treats to the big, scary hard stuff. As much as possible, we need to let our kids know the plan and what to expect.
Kids are smart. They know when something’s up. Kids from hard places tend to be especially intuitive. If they sense something is wrong or unusual, they will switch into survival mode.
Kids have big imaginations. If we don’t tell them what is really going on, they will imagine terrible scenarios. The unknown is incredibly scary. Many times, their monsters are much worse than reality. When kids have a trauma history, the worst case scenario is never far from their minds. Last winter, I broke my ankle. As I was crying out and writhing in pain, Cupcake came straight up to me and asked if I was going to die. When I told her, “No. Mommy just hurts, but I’m not going to die (…even though I’m acting like it),” she visibly relaxed. She just needed to know.
Kids can handle more than we give them credit for. They will step up and accept the challenge. They will be brave, if they know you are trustworthy and you will walk with them through the trouble. If we can coach them through the process, we gain their trust and they gain maturity.
Sometimes, we don’t want to cause them anxiety before it’s necessary, and that’s okay, but we have to give them enough time to process the truth.
“Yes, Dear. The Dr. will give you a shot today. It will pinch for just a little bit and then it will be over. If you breathe slowly, relax your arm, and look the other way, it’ll be over before you know it.”
Sometimes, we don’t want to deal with the tears. We want to avoid a scene. We think, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” These are not good enough reasons to keep the truth from a child. When it’s over, our child will trust us less, because we didn’t give them a warning and time to get their courage up.
“Mom and Dad are going away for a weekend. You are going to stay with Grammy and Grandpa. They will take good care of you until we get back. We’ll be back Sunday before dinner. We will miss you, but you will have fun. We trust Grammy and Grandpa to keep you safe. We’ll see you Sunday.”
Sometimes, the truth is hard. We think it’s too hard for our kids. The thing is, truth has a way of coming out anyway. Now, I’m not saying that our kids need to know everything about every situation. It needs to be age appropriate, but it needs to be the truth they can understand.
What if Dad has cancer?
Older kids can handle a gentle, “Kids, sit down. We have some tough news…”
Younger kids can handle, “Daddy is sick. He’s going to the hospital for a few days, and then he will take medicine that will make his hair fall out.”
When the questions come up… “We don’t know if he will live, but we’re hopeful. No matter what, God will be with us.”
God has entrusted us with beautiful children that look to us to learn how to live life. First, and foremost, they need to know that they can trust us.
While I was composing this post, I had the opportunity to use it…and I blew it. My husband was in the hospital with a kidney stone. They gave him some pain medication that caused an adverse reaction. To my untrained eyes, his symptoms matched the criteria for a heart attack. The nurse was concerned, but not alarmed. I was alarmed. When I got home, I was shaken and scared. My highly perceptive daughters noticed immediately. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing at all.
My older daughter fell into a puddle of tears. I just held her and stroked her hair.
My younger daughter, Cupcake, displays fear in a different way. She became defiant. She wasn’t going to eat her snack in the kitchen. She wasn’t going to take a bath. She wasn’t going to get undressed. She wasn’t going to let me rinse her hair. Finally, I said, “Honey, I need you to get clean and get to bed, because I may need to go back to the hospital to be with Daddy. He took some medicine that made him feel really, really bad.”
At that moment, she broke. She wept uncontrolled tears of fear. She sobbed, “Mommy, please don’t go! PLEASE! Don’t leave me!!!” She fell into my arms and bawled until her tears were gone. Suddenly, we were on the same side, both frightened, but together, a team. In a few minutes, we prayed for Daddy, we prayed for her, and she went to bed peacefully.
Then I was able to go back to the big kids and share with them what had happened.
In the end, Daddy was fine and we had a happy homecoming.
I learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll take my own advice and tell my kids the truth, even if it’s scary.
Blessings to you,