Cultivating a Culture of Honesty with Our Kids

We were sitting in the car in the drive-through line. One kid was telling a story, the other was rummaging around to make space for his drink in the cupholder. The phone rang. I didn’t even look to see who it was and sent it to Bluetooth.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Miss Hauser, this is Solis Mammography calling to discuss the results of your recent scans.”

Crap. They’ve never called before. Something’s up. MY KIDS ARE LISTENING. Should I just hang up? No, that’d make them more concerned. Crap. Stay calm, Alisa.

“Yes?”

“Well, Miss Hauser, we’ve detected some abnormalities in the scans so we’d like to bring you back in this week for additional tests.”

Crap. I knew it.

“Ummmm…MOM??? What’s going on?”

Stay calm, Alisa. Your kids need you to just stay calm and be honest.

“Well, guys, I’m not exactly sure, but I promise you one thing: Whatever it is, we’ll get through it.”

“Okay.”

And that was it. I pictured crying. No, actually, I pictured hysterics. Our family has seen more than its share of trauma and I thought FOR. SURE. something like this would tip them right over the edge. But it didn’t. The food arrived. We went on our way. All was calm.

Huh????

Here’s the thing. Our kids need to trust us to tell them the truth. They need to trust us to tell them what they need to know. As parents, we heartily embrace our responsibility to protect our children, and oftentimes mistakenly believe that includes shielding them from information that could cause stress. But in reality, keeping the truth from our kids could lead to greater feelings of helplessness and anxiety.

From current events to COVID to heartbreak to health concerns, the guiding principle in sharing with our children is to tell them the truth in a way that they understand. Young children (up to 8 years old) don’t need as much detailed information, while older children (8 to 12 years) and teens, in my experience, will want to know more. When life becomes unpredictable, feeling assured that they’ll always know what’s going on will help them adjust and feel safe.

Isn’t the same true for us as parents? How many times have I said to my kids, “I can take anything you have to tell me; just tell me the truth” ? Well, the same holds true for them. And as parents it’s our job to cultivate a culture of honesty and transparency in our families.

After all, we can’t ask for honesty from our kids if we’re not willing to give it.

I’ve made a ton of mom mistakes. I’ve messed up, screwed up, and blown it BIG TIME. But one thing my kids know for sure is that even though I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always be honest with them.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, and truth be told, I’m nervous. I want to make it all go away. I want to spare them from any more heartbreak. But I can’t.

What I can do is be honest with them. Inform them. Stay close with them. And keep reassuring them that whatever happens, we’ll get through it together. And that comforts them because they know I’m telling them the truth.

Alisa’s 15 minutes of fame was as a news reporter just after college. These days, she embraces multiple roles – a mom of three (two teenagers and one who is #adulting), a graduate student at UT Dallas Jindal School of Management, and a freelance writer, editor, and tutor. When she’s not hiding out in the library, you can find her next to a chiminea fire on her back patio. She loves indie movies, eclectic music, random road trips, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, her kids, and her cat Jack Jack (although not necessarily in that order). She grew up as a military brat, residing in four countries and eleven states before settling in the Dallas area. After 20 years here, and with the help of her Aggie daughter, she can seamlessly use “y’all” and “howdy” in a sentence like a true native Texan.