Today I’m continuing my how to keep your kids out of counselling series. For those of you who are new, I actually think counselling is great, I just want to touch on some problem areas that land adults on the old couch in hopes that we can help our children develop healthy emotional and mental habits.
Today I want to talk about reality. Or more specifically, avoiding unreality. Unreality is a bit of a buzz word, but simply put, it means living in lala land. But not a silly made up Candyland type of lala land. Rather, a person living in unreality does not see things realistically, rationally or as they really are.
Parents who teach their children about life in an age appropriate way will raise children who are wise and who don’t freeze up when confronted with hard situations.
1. Effects of unreality.
An adult living in unreality is one who makes poor decisions, acts as though they don’t understand normal consequences, and is naive to a fault. They continue to write checks knowing their account is overdrawn, assuming their money will sort itself out. It’s showing up to work late repeatedly assuming you’d never actually get fired. It’s having grandiose dreams, and thinking they will come about without any work.
Children who are not taught about life will grow into adults who are lost in a grown up world. They won’t know how to manage their money, manage their lives, or maintain mature friendships and relationships. They might have a false view of God thinking He will do everything for them, or they won’t be able to bear up under the weight of responsibilities and deadlines. Why? Because they aren’t used to cause and effect. They aren’t used to experiencing consequences. They aren’t used to problem-solving on their own without parental intervention.
2. Be honest.
Honesty is one of the all-time most important qualities a person can have in my book. I believe honesty (in marriage, friendships, parenting, and just about everything else) is the foundation of any relationship. With it you can build a structure to high heights. Without it, the structure will never be safe. A great way to help your children understand your values, your faith, and the realities of this world, is to be honest.
We must be honest with our spiritual life and faith. We must honestly (as much as is appropriate) answer questions they ask us. Trying to pretend things are okay when they are not: (1) doesn’t fool them, (2) gives them cause to distrust us, and (3) increases, not decreases, confusion.
3. Don’t sugar coat.
We must not tell our children more than they’re emotionally or mentally ready to handle, that is for certain. However, there will be times when we’re tempted to sugarcoat things just so we don’t have to answer the hard questions. Miscarriages, divorce, death, rejection by friends, a parent getting fired, etc. will bring up anxiety in our children and cause them to ask us questions.
Without being alarmist or unwise (and again, in an age appropriate manner), we should seek to stop sugar-coating things and tell it like it is to our kids. We’re changing churches or schools because we didn’t believe in what the leaders were doing. The dog did not go on a long walk, the dog passed away. Kids are actually more confused by cockamamie stories than they are by reality. If you don’t believe me, give it a try!
4. Teach cause and effect.
A great way to help equip children for adulthood is to teach them cause and effect. Or rather, to let them learn about cause and effect without stepping in to prevent it. Encouraging good habits and behaviors will help children get used to making wise decisions early. This is helpful because soon your kids will make better choices because they like the results. Studying equals good grades. Practicing equals increase in technical skills.
On the other hand, we should also let them experience negative consequences. Talking in class may get your child detention, which will have a ripple effect and cause them to miss practice, which may mean they have to sit out a big game. What’s the point in going to the teacher and asking her to reconsider? It is only delaying the opportunity for your child to learn that sometimes, when we do things that aren’t wise, there are negative consequences.
5. Hide what’s necessary, reveal what’s helpful.
There have been times in my life that my mother withheld things because it would only have harmed me to know them. This was wise and thoughtful. Information that doesn’t directly affect your children and would bring them fear or confusion or anxiety need not be said.
However, sometimes completely refusing to give children any information is unhelpful. Revealing enough facts or details to give your children answers will help them learn to process events and promote resilience. If a friend’s parents get a divorce you can discuss the issue with your children without giving gory details. If a family member dies you can discuss death and grieve together without a play by play of the last moments.
If you are a down to earth person, odds are you’ll have down to earth children. In no way do I think we should “rob” our children of their innocence. Heavens no! But I do think we should take advantage of life’s circumstances to help teach our children about real life. We want our children to be kind, thoughtful, wise and mature. Learning about life in the shelter of your own home will be a much more pleasant experience than being tutored by hard knocks that come because they weren’t prepared.