An overwhelming parental instinct is to try to hide our kids from the unpleasantness of the real world.
To a certain extent, this is a good thing. Obviously children should be sheltered until they are mentally and emotionally able to handle the harder truths of life.
But if we want to build bridges of trust with our children, we need to start sharing the realities of family life.
Think of all it takes to maintain a family. From shelter to food to education, parents and kids make an amazing number of decisions and accomplish an astounding amount of every single day. The family is a microcosm of society and culture, and all the things that give quality of life in our society are exercised on a small scale in the home.
Although many automatically think that schools are most important for equipping children for the real world, children do most of their preparation for their future at home. They need information to do this - information that parents often hide from their kids.
The obvious place to start is with caring for the home. Even young children can learn to value the things in their home that protect them, provide for them, and give them pleasure, and how to preserve those things by treating them kindly and with respect. Chores are part of that, but chores don't have to be dreaded as mundane tasks, Rather, they are a way to show gratitude for the possessions that make their lives easier and more enjoyable.
A very delicate subject is health. We sometimes don't want to burden our kids with information about a family illness or news of a disturbing diagnosis, but let's face it – kids know when something is wrong, and they will dream up a scenario far worse than the reality if we don't tell them what is going on. It is an opportunity to teach them about their bodies, the family's medical history, and maybe even how our past decisions are now affecting our health in negative ways. Don't rob them of a chance to learn compassion, empathy, and endurance by making them think life will always be puppies and Christmas.
Perhaps an even more sensitive subject is money, but kids needs to know the ins and outs of the family budget. You can't get any more real world than learning how to live within your means.
If you aren't comfortable sharing the exact amount of your income with your kids, that's fine – but they can still be taught how much money comes in each week or month that goes to pay for their home, utilities, insurance, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, and other expenses. Show them how you have to save money for future purchases like a down payment on a house, a better vehicle, a major home improvement, or a family vacation. Explain why you give to certain charitable organizations and how you determine what is and isn't a wise investment.
What does this teach them? Hopefully by modeling good stewardship and explaining the cost of living, you are teaching them the relationship of labor to reward, a work ethic, frugality, foresight, and patience.
Perhaps we are reluctant to share the realities of family life with our kids because we've made mistakes we are ashamed of. Well, that's learning in the real world too. It isn't in our child's best interest to withhold information because are embarrassed to admit we've made poor choices.
If you've developed a relationship based on trust and respect, your children will appreciate your humility and the opportunity to learn from you, even if it learning what NOT to do.
How are you helping your kids learn the realities of family life? Share in the comments below -
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