Perhaps the greatest gift of youth is innocence. These days, with access to all the political, social and accessible goings-on, keeping your kids free from the burdens of over information can be an extremely daunting task. Even the most conservative of families equip their children with smart phones, tablets or any number of devices that can throw the full weight of the world into their otherwise delicate purview.
As such, being a parent places upon you a sacred duty of not oversharing. Regardless of the family dynamic, be it traditional, single parent or shared parenting, that which you do and say in your family structures can place heavy burdens on those who should not have to carry the weight of an adult life. Sometimes, less truly is more.
What you read next is in no way a definitive list. Adult problems grow and appear anew at an ever-increasing pace; yet, sticking to these guidelines with a “common sense” mentality will help keep your problems off of their shoulders.
Never discuss detailed financial troubles-
Not many acts more endearing than the little one that wants to be mommy or daddy’s helper. Allowing your child to have intimate knowledge of financial struggles can set those struggles directly in to the light of a child’s understanding. Kids depend on their parents to provide for them. Too much information about the family budget can cause unnecessary feelings of guilt or helplessness when a young child starts to consider all the concerns needing to be addressed to keep him/her going. Keep financial specifics private between the adults while also teaching the value of sound financial practices.
Be aware of the way that you speak about others-
A child will most often learn the rules of engagement from the way they see their parent(s) behave. The way you tell a child to behave will never carry the same weight as the way that you show a child to act. Speaking harshly about a family member, co-worker or member of your social circle, for instance, will teach a child that it’s fine to act one way to a person’s face, yet act another way when they are not around. The confusion in the messages is wholly unnecessary. Also, direct or indirect inclusion to an adult venting about other adults will show a child what he/she believe to be acceptable ways to speak directly to others, even if you have consistently taught otherwise. It would be nearly impossible to make it through a lifetime without a “do as I say, not as I do” moment or two. Keeping those events as few as possible will teach strength rather than confusion.
Never speak harshly about their other parent-
There is no single act that can destroy the heart and confidence of a child as much as hearing you speak negatively about someone they love. Again, regardless of the family dynamic, when two parents are involved, a child will hold deep feelings and allegiance to both. Even in the most painful of situations, it falls to a parent’s responsibility to shine the most positive light possible on the other parent. Dividing a child’s feelings towards one of the adults that they rely on for mental, physical and emotional care can give way to confusion, unwillingness to confide in the adult who has been represented by a negative view, or even a complete choosing of sides. Sadly, there are instances, such as abuse or neglect, where this is all together unavoidable. However, when you are in the heat of the moment or in the midst of trying to find peace with your spouse or co-parent, the child is already picking up on any hurtful or destabilizing behavior which the adults are portraying. Adding a personal and negative narrative to the situation does damage that may go beyond an ability to repair.
Be mindful of how you present your work day-
A child’s work ethic is learned almost completely from watching the parents. Teaching a strong and positive attitude towards work can be a lifetime gift for any child. It’s not practical to think that every day can be represented in a positive manner. Kids are intuitive. If a child is told one thing but sense something all together different, it can be confusing or cause for concern. Again, remember “less is more”. If you are visibly worn out by the time you get home, sharing the day was long, with much to do will serve them much better than hearing how difficult or irritating your boss, co-workers or work environment can be. Do all that you can to not instill fear or anxiety alongside the ethics of doing your job well.
Qualify statements that sound permanent
Every parent wants to see their child achieve. How much easier is it to give half or no effort if you are conditioned by words like “can’t”, “never” or “impossible”? For that matter, what could be more of a stumbling block to a child’s creativity if all negatives are absolutes? Of course you’re going to have to say NO at times (and yes, you will be thanked you for it later), but rather than sounding permanent, guide with a sense of now. Try using phrases such as “not able to now” or “perhaps that would be possible later” when at all possible. Leave a message of possibility.
If innocence truly is the greatest gift of youth, then consistency and hope are the greatest gifts that can be bestowed by parents. Remember, a child is more likely to act as you show them rather than how you tell them to be. Guide and protect their innocence. As we all know, you have nothing more than a lifetime to adapt to the travails of adulthood. For now, give the blessing of abiding in possibility. Don’t give more knowledge than needed. Empower your child with the skills to one day become happy and healthy adults. Let your good example to be the lessons that guide the up and coming generation. Don’t leave a legacy as cycle to be broken.