I hear these words a lot – "I am always honest with my child/ren", "I don't hide things from him/her/them", "I think children should learn early on that life can be hard". Yes. I agree. Sort of.
I think honesty is important and I think that openness can build resiliency. And I agree that quite often life throws things at us that just have to be dealt with. But children are not mini adults. Their emotional and cognitive capacities are less developed than ours and an external filter is needed to ensure that they avoid overload. Children do not have the ability to process information or emotions with the same skill that adults might. Children are not able to understand context, or to talk themselves down from high emotion readily. They don't always know what will help them feel better, and they don't yet have enough experience to know that 'this too shall pass'.
As parents, part of the job description is to shield children from some of life's nasty bits, and to provide a filter which is developmentally appropriate. It helps to be aware that children's cognitive and emotional age do not always match. Just because a child is intellectually capable does not mean that he/she is able to process emotion in an adult manner.
So how do we decide what is right and how much to share? As the 'big people', we are called on to be wiser, kinder and stronger. Sometimes that will mean that we share the hard stuff. Other times it will mean that we keep it to ourselves. On yet other occasions it will mean that we press the pause button until we are more certain of what to say and how to say it. Always, it will mean ensuring that the information we choose to share is truly in the best interests of the little person who will receive it.
Tarnya Mitchell (BA (Psych), BSocWk, Grad Dip Teaching, M.Ed (Guidance and Counselling))
Immanuel Lutheran College