Keeping Secrets From Your Kids

A terrific resource in Dallas has been kind to as me to write a couple things for them. It’s been fun to act like a reporter of sorts. Dallas Child gave me a couple of topics on which to research and to write. Here’s a portion of one of them. The topic: keeping secrets from your kids … is it ever a good idea. This assignment prompted thought and reconsideration concerning a few of the things that we have or haven’t shared with our kids. Because, it can be difficult navigating tough roads like illness, brokenness, even our own less-than-stellar life choices. And, how much do we/should we share with our kids? I enjoyed contemplating the topic and hope you will too.

Click HERE to read the article in its entirety. Next week I’ll share a snippet from another article about kids growing up in the shadow of high achieving parents.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

- Kay

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…(H)ow do we navigate life’s turbulent roads while protecting the hearts of our children? And when, in the name of love, are we setting our kids up for more pain?

“There are some things that people, especially children, should know and some things they should not,” says Dr. Thomas Shoaf, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Richardson. “Of concern is how secrets are used, whether to protect or to hurt, and their effects on the development of self-identity, relationships and boundaries.”

It’s about time

“Protecting a young child from information — from terminal illness to family secrets — that could cause unnecessary fear, anxiety, sadness or a negative identity makes sense for healthy development and well-being,” Shoaf explains. “However, the disclosure of this information at an appropriate time could foster the development of healthy coping skills and the ability to trust in relationships. The key is sharing information at the proper time.”

So when is the proper time?

Celia Heppner, Psy.D., clinical psychologist at Children’s Health in Dallas and assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, says to consider not only a child’s age, but also his or her emotional maturity. “For younger children, stick to concrete language and basic facts,” she says. “Explain what is true, but use language they can understand without minimizing information.” As kids get older, broader language can be used and questions entertained.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot control a child’s environment, Heppner points out. “My recommendation is to share the information at a time before they will be exposed to societal cues. This will provide the child a framework to be able to handle the information when it does come up in a different setting.” Because as we all know, inevitably it will.

“Determining whom to trust is an important skill to learn at an early age,” states Hyowon Gweon on the MIT News website. Gweon served as lead author of the recent MIT study that explored the question of whether children can discern when adults are telling them the truth — just not the whole truth.

“When someone provides us information, we not only learn about what is being taught; we also learn something about that person,” offers Gweon. And, based on that information — whether it’s accurate, complete or a partial share — we gauge our trust. Kids do too.

Southlake parents Holly and Brad Parker (names changed for confidentiality) say they also fretted over what to tell their children, friends and extended family when they learned that their college-age son was struggling with depression.

“It’s not exactly what we imagined for his life,” Holly says. “In the moment, the pain was so great — especially as we learned he’d entertained notions of suicide — that we didn’t know how much to say or when or how. What would people think?”

Their pain was palpable.

“For us, our child provided the answer,” the mom adds. “We would have erred on trying to protect him by keeping the truth a secret. But he decided differently.”

His response: “We tell them the truth.”

For him, airing secrets of self-doubt, loneliness and dark thoughts opened the door to healing and freedom from the chains that accompanied hiding the truth.

“Interestingly, he didn’t want to tell us about his struggles,” Brad shares. “He didn’t want to hurt us. I guess the protection tables had turned.”

Holly adds, “We couldn’t help but wonder if, in all our good intentions, we had trained him to hide hurt.”

Gift of honesty

“Secrets can lead to harmful miscommunication and shame that endures for years,” says Shoaf. “Children can be perceptive of parents’ nonverbal postures, mannerisms and attitudes that reflect the negative and shameful aspects of some secrets. In turn, children may internalize this guilt, shame or doubt when it has nothing to do with their actions.”

So what’s a parent to do? According to Shoaf, we can teach our kids that everyone faces difficult storms. Honesty, along with mercy, love and forgiveness (if necessary), can help us move on and live full lives. “It is this precious gift [of honesty] that fosters the development of a positive identity for the child,” Shoaf explains.

After her father-in-law’s death, Hildebrand’s youngest daughter (almost 6) asked if they could visit neighbors where he had lived. “The kids gave pictures, hugs and time,” Julie remembers. “I’m fairly certain that we don’t have to protect our kids from every hurt. I don’t think mine would have ever thought to consider these people if they knew nothing about their struggles.”

For the rest of the story, click below. Julie Hildebrand has more to say and Janie Hamner has a terrific sidebar with practical tips at the end of the article.

 Dallas Child, February 2015 – Keeping Secrets From Your Kids: Is keeping secrets from your kids ever a good parenting tactic?

12 Hours 36 Minutes and 843.5 Miles Away

 

Today’s post is by my dearest friend and sister-in-law Chris Wills. She’s always super nice to let me bother her to share with us tidbits going on in their home. I should have recorded our conversation last week about boy-odor, but we were laughing too hard. Just know, mothers of boys, you’re not alone!

But I couldn’t not share her thoughts written out below. The gist: we are created for TOGETHER.

Thanks for sharing, Chris … and thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Odometer clock

Twenty four years have come and gone since my world forever changed. In that day a merger, partnership, and journey began that has blessed my life beyond measure.

Yet, I was so naive and oblivious to what God was up to. David and I always knew we wanted to have a large family. We did not have a number in mind just BIG.

In the years from 1992-2003 we had seven kids. Six boys and one girl. Our oldest is graduating college in six weeks, while our daughter and third born son are also in college. In the fall I will have two high schoolers and two middle schoolers still at home. Can you say roller coaster ride? And what a wonderful, painful, joyful, tearful, gut wrenching, stomach flipping ride it is and has been. From crying babies, sleepless nights, to walking, running, playing baseball, tennis, riding horses, and even raising chickens! Don’t even ask me to name all the dogs we have had through the years.

Then came puberty, voice changes odors, messy rooms, more odors. The next thing I know I am the passenger and they are the driver. Moms, this is a great weight loss program due to the amount of perspiring that takes place in that seat!

Before you know it, it’s time to pack them up. It’s “send off”, “drop off”, “move in” day. Almost four years ago, the first of these moments had arrived. Most parents have said their goodbyes, but we were leaving Jonny, our first born, in Texas and then headed back to Georgia. He will be 12 hours 36 minutes and 843.5 miles away!!!

As this decision was being processed, I am sure that I said something like, ‘Just because mom and dad were born and raised in Texas, just because there is wonderful family right up the interstate, just because dad and his whole family went to school there doesn’t mean you have to!’ This is where I’m certain my oldest would give me that look. You know the “I love you, I’ve got this, there are six more at home to take care of” look. How dare any of them think they are replaceable! But then we hug. The kind of embrace I will forever hold in my heart and his dad and I drive off!

Of course the litany of the list of things I have not taught him are running through my head! I cry and cry and cry. From Waco, to Dallas while the plane takes off and until the plane lands in Atlanta. Oh, and then the hour drive home from the airport.

One would think this has gotten better over time. That in four years and as Maggie and Chuck have left home I have handled it with complete elegance and grace. Nope! I am still the same blubbering mom I have been from day one of the “see you later” phase of life. It’s not that we are not happy for them. I’m thrilled and would probably be crying harder if they were not leaving the nest. This is why we have been preparing and training them. A time where they venture out and get to start discerning God’s calling on their life. Watching the unfolding of their character and their unique gifts in action has been a beautiful thing!

So why is this so hard? Why do the tears come every single time! How can I be so happy for them and feel so much sadness at the same time?

What God has revealed to me and why the “see you laters” are so hard is because “He has set eternity in their heart…” Ecc. 3:1. We are made for eternity not for good byes. It is woven in our being to want to be with those we love always. And thankfully, with faith in Christ, we will be.

So if you are a mom sitting in the depths of baby and toddlerhood realize the days turn to months turn to years in a blink. You will sleep again. They will all walk on their own and the dirty diaper smell will someday be gone and forgotten! You will become a passenger in the car breathing prayer the entire ride. Next your vehicle will be the moving van that delivers them to their next adventure.

“Our Heavenly Father has provided many delightful inns for us along our journey, but he takes great care to see that we do not mistake any of them for home.” C.S. Lewis

My tears are a longing for that day when eternity is spent with Him and those I love! In the meantime…Kleenex remains on my Costco list.

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A Praying Mother

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Yesterday, we headed to Birmingham for college quick-see. It’s nice living in Dallas where the airports are close and good options on frequent flier programs reign. Have I mentioned we’re a tiny bit last minute flakey? As in, “Oh, yeah – the college decision is in a couple weeks. Might be good to figure that out.” No need to point out that most of the kids on the college tour were Juniors and Sophomores.

“This is our fifth stop this week” one of the moms said to me. They were certainly being productive on their Spring Break. “We’re hitting two more on our way home. What about you?” she asked.

“Well… this is our first.”

That’s okay, you have over a year to figure this out.”

I didn’t tell her the visit was for our Senior.

I feel for my kids. They sure could have fared better in life with an organized mom. But you get what you get. And I sure do love them.

Jack made me feel a tiny bit better about my haphazard/were-we-supposed-to-have-signed-up-for-that(?!) way of life the other night while brushing his teeth. “If I had another mother – and I met you,” he told me mid-swish, “I’d want you as my mom.”

Heart-melt.

My heart also got a good dose of encouragement on my plane ride yesterday.

After a bit of musical chairs before take-off. Somehow I mis-read our boarding passes (at least I’m consistent!) so a few rows had to get up and move. Finally, I wiggled into a seat and felt the need to apologize to the man sitting next to me for my confusing everyone. “I thought we were in 15 E & F, but I guess it was 15 B and 16 E&F … I don’t know.” I shrugged and could feel my kids, now sitting in front of me, cringing – still embarrassed since we were the reason the plane CAN’T BACK AWAY FROM THE GATE. (That was the polite-yell from a syrupy stewardess trying to keep us on time.)

“No worries,” the gentleman replied in a lovely Australian accent.

You never know on a plane ride whether or not begin a conversation with your seat-mate. Do they want to talk? Maybe? No? Do I want to talk? Will a chat be laced with awkward? Will there be a smooth transition to silence and productivity? He looked so interesting, though. I couldn’t stop myself.

And sure enough, as soon as our chat began, I knew the almost 2 hour trip wouldn’t be long enough.

He told me his name, Peter, and that he was visiting the U.S. for a little over a week. An Anglican minister, he told me a little about his work here and in Australia. He shared just the perfect amount, so humble, so interesting. We discussed the purpose and meaning behind so many things related to church and life … the people.

Before long, he wanted to know about me. For some reason (I guess I felt safe) I was compelled to share with him some of the more raw aspects of my role as mom. And in the most lovely way, covered in wisdom and that great accent, he told me about a story that deeply encouraged his wife in the parenting of their five kids.

“”Monica’ is the name I want you to remember,” he told me. Then asked, “Are you familiar with St. Augustine and his mother?”

“Not really,” I honestly replied. Mostly because I was thinking about his mother. I actually am familiar with Augustine – not as much as my kids who have studied his writings – but I do know that he is one of the most influential Christian thinkers. In fact I have his Confessions sitting by my bed as I write. But I’ve never heard a word about his mother who’s name was Monica. (Now that I know, I wonder what rock I was living under to not have known.)

“Well,” Peter gently continued, “Augstine was not raised in a Christian home. His mother had a strong faith, but his father had none. By the time Augustine hit his youth, he sowed some wild seeds, lots of licentious behavior that went far beyond boys-will-be-boys. He wanted nothing from his mother’s faith except distance.”

“But,” Peter continued, “she prayed. Often. Diligently. She prayed for her son. At one point, she followed Augustine to Milan when he moved there for something and she befriended a Priest. She shared with him her heart’s sadness over her son – and all the time and tears spent in prayer over and for him.”

“The Priest comforted her. He told her that it would be impossible that a son over whom she had shed so many tears would perish. Eventually, the Priest became friends with Augustine. But it wasn’t that friendship that opened Augustine’s eyes – it was a passage in Romans. Monica’s prayers were answered.”

“So,” Peter looked at me, “I’m telling you, which I know you know, to pray. And remember Monica as you do.”

I loved so much about his story. I loved his kind words of encouragement to me as a mom, remembering what encouraged him and especially his wife. I love the beauty and wonder of prayer.

I don’t know what the answers to my prayers will be, but I know they are heard. Which is really what I think Peter was telling me. And in God’s hearing I find – and will always find –  solid and safe ground. For the One who hears is the Creator of life itself – of the ones for whom we pray. And He is trustworthy – above all else. His love is incomprehensibly deep, wide, long and high.

There can never be too many prayers from a mother; but I think there can be too few. Not in a worthy-of-answer sort of way, but in a God’s-got-it reminder kind of way. Prayer is the oxygen mask that helps us to breathe. Something we must first put on ourselves before helping those for whom we so desperately care put it on themselves.

Because, prayer not only covers our children, but it covers our own hearts.

Thank you Peter for sharing! And, thanks for walking the road with me – it’s never one to go alone.

– Kay

Connected in the Crowd

With the start of our Spring Break staycation, I’m determined to be productive – begin Spring lean and clean. So, not only are the rooms getting a once over, so is my computer (or at least some of it) – which is where I found today’s post. Hiding in a sea of open docs. Written, but never posted.

Suffice it to say, I might have a bit of not-again going on this staycation. Usually I don’t mind, maybe even embrace, staying at home over Spring Break, not so much this year. I think I could use some ocean or mountain views – and after finding this post that I wrote and forgot to post – I can guess why. But I’m glad I didn’t post it, because I needed the reminder. Especially as my mind eyes might tempt me to see the grass as greener, when I know without a shadow of a doubt good/great is at hand at all times – usually in the form of people.

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January 26

I have a love-hate relationship with my computer.

I love how it simplifies and streamlines so many aspects of life. I also love the way it connects me to people, information and the world. I just might get all of my news from Twitter/Facebook. (Shout-out thanks to BBC, US News, etc for the info and to friends for posting thought-provoking articles and to Denison Forum for keeping it relevant and real :)

But with it comes something unsettling.

I woke with it on my mind.

As I thought about it this morning, wondering where my day yesterday went off track – because it did – the evidence pointed to my computer. Not the machine itself, but some of the traps that come with extreme-connectedness. Broad, but shallow, connectedness. As if we’re known, but not known.

My yesterday started early, as it usually does. I got up and went downstairs to light the fire and have a quiet moment to myself. As the kids began to get up for school, I hopped in the car and raced to grab some bagels from Einstein – where the funniest, nicest guy helps folks in the morning. I told the kids about him when I got back.

“So I’m ordering the bagels, see – ” Check … yes, someone is listening – as if that has ever affected my decision to talk/not talk.

“And, I’m not sure the guy behind the register is even awake. RG (Register Guy) takes my order, monotone-responding as I give it to him. But the man racing about behind RG putting the orders together is hilarious – always making people laugh.” He’s a short Mexican man with an infectious smile. His eyes literally twinkle as he brightens every person’s day. Usually by cracking corny Spanish jokes.

“So this morning,” I chuckle just thinking about it, “he hands me my bag – that he had already filled the minute I walked in the door since he knows my order – and says with a sly smile, ‘Here you go, Señora, seis tamales.’ And I laugh. – You know, they’re bagels not tamales.”

No one thinks this is funny. But I do.

“I know it’s Dumphy… but come on. Sometimes he tells me they’re tacos.”

Still no laughter.

“Okay, so then he points at RG, a 6’2” white guy with glasses who is still dead-pan taking orders, and smiling-says, ‘This is mi hijo.’ Then shrug-nodding he adds, ‘His mother makes me bring him to work with me.’”

Now kids are chuckling, too.

“Laughing, I ask RG ‘Is he always this funny?’ The guy rolled his eyes and droned sarcastically, ‘Yes.’”

“He’s corny,” I tell the kids, “but hilarious. And just makes me smile. What a great way to start the day.”

And, my happy thinking lasted several hours. But something started to change as I sat at my computer to get so many things done that needed to be done.

My mood shifted. I don’t think it was something in particular. I’m pretty sure it was just gradual. In the midst of getting tasks completed, I would take a break here and there for emails and to check out social media. The view was good and pretty and so not-complicated – at least in their world. Surface brush-strokes of life. And, somewhere along the way, nagging feelings of discontent began popping up.

Granted, several of the things I needed to get done would never make my Top Ten List of Fun Things To Do. I’m finishing final edits for I’m Happy For You and gathering together a few folks (“influencers” as they are known) to read the close-to-final-product for possible endorsement. I really can’t think of anything less pleasant than asking people, several of whom I do not know, to read something I’ve written and to tell other people how much they like it. It’s a tiny bit awkward. Hi. You don’t know me. But will you like me? And then tell all your friends to like me too? My task also involves asking/emailing certain friends: Would you mind asking your influential friend if they will like me and tell all their friends they like me? Which is weird on so many levels.

And I guess in all this, I began to let my interaction with my computer (my phone is the same) start to sink my soul – without even knowing it. Granted this particular day’s exercise made it on steroids, but we do that every day. Response/no-repsonse. Likes/no-likes. Shares/no-shares. Emails from an actual person/spam-mail.

Thousands of “friends”, information overload, tens of dozens of email messages from “people” we’ve never met. And we delete and discard-spam all while refreshing the browser to see if anyone real has responded or reached out to check in. Living out loud in this super-connected world that doesn’t feel very connected. It can make someone feel a little disconnected and unsettled – a little alone in a sea of many.

Which is how I felt by the time afternoon rolled around.

So I closed my computer and went swimming, my new form of exercise. I needed a re-boot. On the way to the pool, I called my friend Nancy and told her that I felt a bit stressed. I had to say it to someone. And by the time I finished my laps, she had text-thrown me a life-line: “Meet at Ann’s for dessert at 8.” Which I did.

No more broad, shallow, connectedness. But deep connectedness with real people that goes further than the surface – even enough to talk about the traps of shallow. And it was good. It was real. It was relationship.

My day started with real people. And ended with real people. The start was with an acquaintance. The end with life-long friends. Either – a good way to add depth, through live interaction, to this widely-connected world. Something worth considering amidst the rising tide of anonymity.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay