We all hide things from our kids. Let’s be honest. I clearly remember the first time I intentionally snuck into the kitchen, slowly, silently pulled out a mini candy bar from my hidden stash, devoured it in secret, masterfully disposed of all the evidence, and rejoined my 2-year-old daughter with a smile and no indication of any foul play.
“Hey, Gwen!” I said, innocently. And wouldn’t you know it, she immediately said, “Mom! You smell like chocolate. Did you eat chocolate? Where is it?”
**sheepish grin** Caught.
There are lots of reasons we hide things from our kids. And many of them are actually quite admirable. We want to protect them. To spare them. To prevent them from worrying. And so much more.
The problem is that, in the process, we oftentimes end up hiding things that our kids actually DO need to see as well. We think we’re sparing them, but what we’re really doing is robbing them of the chance to learn from our example in the areas of life that matter most.
Here are 5 things to stop hiding from your kids:
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1. Affection Toward Your Spouse
I talked to someone who, at 5 years old, witnessed his parents kiss each other in the kitchen. He loudly declared, like any young boy might, “Ew! That’s gross!!” Being the accommodating people they were, his parents decided from then on to keep their affection for one another private, so as not to expose him to any awkwardness again.
I appreciate their heart’s intent, but what it actually did was cause him to not know what healthy affection looks like in a marriage. Affection is actually an important part of a strong marriage.
When we hide hugs and kisses from our kids, we are preventing them from seeing what a thriving marriage looks like. Not only that, but affection is one of the key ways children experience and understand love. So when they witness their parents’ affection for each other, it gives them a sense of security. They see and understand, on their level, that mom and dad love each other. By the way, if you want to reconnect with your spouse, check out this free 5-Day Marriage Challenge!
WHAT TO SHARE: Let your kids see you hug, kiss, hold hands, snuggle on the couch, rub each other’s back or shoulders, put your arm around each other, look into each other’s eyes, etc.
WHAT TO KEEP PRIVATE: Affection of a sexual or inappropriate nature (groping, touching private parts, touching butt or chest, making out, or anything that feels sensual or suggestive).
I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve talked to whose parents kept ALL aspects of their finances a secret from their kids. Once again, this seems like a noble choice. But oftentimes in the process of keeping our finances private, what we inadvertently do is prevent our kids from knowing how to manage finances.
So they graduate high school, take out a bunch of school loans, sign up for the first credit card offer they get, max it out on clothes and coffee, then end up with loads of debt and no idea how to save for the future, buy a house or plan for retirement.
Instead of hiding all things money from your kids, teach them through your process. And if your finances are not in a place that you would want your children to learn from your example, there is no shame. But now is the perfect time to start making tough choices to get yourself in a better financial place, for their sake as much as yours. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover book or Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey even has a program geared towards kids!
WHAT TO SHARE: How to create and stick with a budget; the importance of spending less than you make; the dangers of credit cards & other debt; the joy of giving generously; the power of compound interest; creative ideas for building wealth.
WHAT TO KEEP PRIVATE: Your own fear or anxiety related to finances. Any sense of guilt or blaming of your kids, your spouse, or any other person or entity for the state of your finances. Serious mismanaging of finances or dire financial situations that could cause unnecessary stress in kids (bankruptcy, foreclosure, pending utility shut-off, questionable loans, gambling, etc.).
Please note: I’m not saying to hide this from your SPOUSE, but instead, if you are in financial trouble, please get help as soon as possible and work with your spouse as a team to move forward toward a better financial situation. But I urge you not to put the weight of this stress on your children.
3. Repentance & Reconciliation
Have your kids ever witnessed a fight between you and your spouse? I know mine have. No matter how great your marriage is or isn’t, there’s a good chance your kids have seen you fight. But what next?
One day, Michael and I were having a fight in the morning, right when he was supposed to be leaving for work. My feelings were hurt. His feelings were hurt. And he was running late. We didn’t have time to step into another room and quietly express our points of view laced with kindness and compliments. It was a hit and run kinda thing. So, with tensions high and voices raised, Michael walked out the front door to go to work.
Our 4 year old witnessed the whole thing.
But 5 seconds later, Michael walked right back in and said, “let’s finish what we need to say.” So we expressed our frustrations and hurt, and then each one of us took ownership of where we had played a role in what happened. Then he apologized and asked my forgiveness. I did the same. We hugged each other and told each other how much we love each other. THEN he went to work, for real this time. And he was probably late.
I didn’t think much about it, until I overheard our 4-year-old playing with her stuffed animals a little later. One of them got mad at the other one, and the other one got mad back. For a second, I held my breath. I was upset at myself for allowing my own frustration with Michael to come out in her presence. But I kept listening. I couldn’t believe what I heard next.
One stuffed animal said to the other one, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?” And the other stuffed animal said, “I forgive you. I’m sorry too, will you forgive me?” “I forgive you.” Then the two stuffed animals “hugged” each other and continued to play together.
My eyes filled with tears as I had a powerful realization. Sometimes we fight in front of our kids. It’s the truth. We make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean. Sometimes we even hurt people’s feelings. And our kids often see more than we intend for them to see. But how often do we let them see the process of reconciliation?
Our kids are going to witness our weaknesses. It’s a given. But if we don’t let them see what should happen next, we are robbing them of the most important part. So when you make mistakes, fight with your spouse, or hurt your child’s feelings, don’t stop there. Let them witness you taking responsibility for your actions, apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and truly repairing the relationship. In doing so, you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of healthy relationships.
WHAT TO SHARE: Apologies, telling the truth in love, asking for forgiveness, taking responsibility for your actions, expression of when your feelings have been hurt, disagreements handled in an honoring way. [Check out the #1 Secret to Healthy Conflict Resolution.]
WHAT TO KEEP PRIVATE: As much as possible, try to keep your heated arguments or tense discussions private. It’s hard for kids to understand the dynamics and can make them feel scared or confused. Sometimes it feels unavoidable, but whenever possible, set aside a later time with your spouse to work through major disagreements and hurt feelings in private.
If you DO fight in front of them, let them see the reconciliation. If you can’t stop fighting, find a marriage counselor and get a third party perspective. Your family is worth it.
4. Your OWN Needs
Having children is truly one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. It’s a dream come true and something I hold close to my heart. And yet nothing…I mean NOTHING…has brought me to the end of myself and my own limits like being a parent. And even though sacrifice is part of my daily existence as a mom, the truth is that I still have needs. I’ve tried to hide them from my kids. Maybe because I think they won’t understand, but mostly because I feel selfish for having them when these tiny people need me in order to survive.
But I’ve learned something over these past 6 years of parenthood. My needs matter too. And when I neglect my own needs, I find myself becoming a not-so-great version of myself. When I deny my need for nourishment, for sleep, for *occasional* privacy, for time with my husband, and for a simple BREAK now and then, I’m actually doing my entire family a disservice. I start feeling stressed out, I get snippy with them, and I lose a lot of my joy in spending time with my kids.
What’s worse is that I’m teaching my kids that, some day, their needs will not matter either. That no matter how exhausted they feel or desperate for community or hungry for alone time, they must set all that aside to keep on keeping on.
What if, instead, I modeled balance? What if, by showing my kids that I have needs too, I can also show them the importance of self-care and the power of saying no?
As much as we try to hide our needs from our kids most times, the desperation that gets stirred up in us really doesn’t help them or us. So find a balance…a rhythm of self-care that helps you be your BEST self, so that your kids can learn to do the same.
WHAT TO SHARE: Your basic needs like food, water, sleep, etc. Your need for some occasional time by yourself or with your spouse or with friends. The important thing here is HOW you say it. Don’t shout your need at the height of your anger. Instead, wait until you can calmly share with your kids the importance of taking care of ourselves and how it helps you to be a better mom. [Read about How to Love Your Body.]
WHAT TO KEEP PRIVATE: Your frustrations with your kids. As much as our kids can push us to the edge of ourselves, they don’t need to know that. If you find yourself “on the edge,” say something like, “Mom is feeling overwhelmed right now” or “Mom is having a tough time” and “I’m just going to take some deep breaths” or “I’m going to rest for a few minutes” or whatever it is you need to do in order to find your calm again. Try to avoid any phrases that point the finger at your kids like, “You guys are driving me crazy!” (I hear you. I’ve said it. There are better options.)
5. Your Spiritual Life
I really don’t think we mean to keep this one hidden, it just kinda happens. We’re busy, we’re on-the-go, or we leave the “theology teaching” to our kids’ Sunday School teachers, who probably have more training in that sort of thing anyway. But the truth is, kids learn so much more from our actions than they do from our words.
My Dad is a man of integrity. He is also a man of God who has always taught my brother and me about Jesus and the ways of the Kingdom of God. And, for the most part, his actions have always lined up with his words. For the times that they haven’t, he has been quick to take responsibility and ask our forgiveness. But honestly, when I think about my Dad’s spiritual life, I don’t think about his words.
As a little girl, I remember waking up each morning and coming into the dimly lit living room to see my Dad, sitting in “his chair” with his cup of black coffee, poring over his Bible and communing with God in the early morning hours. And yet, no matter where he was in the process, he would happily welcome me up into his lap to snuggle him.
Now, as an adult, my family is in a season of transition, as our previous house is rented out and we’re about to move into a new house. My parents have graciously opened their home for the four of us to live with them, in the same house I grew up in. And every morning, as I get up with my early riser (Elle, age 20 months), we quietly creep into the living room to find my Dad in his chair, seeking God and reading His Word. Just like when I was a girl, he welcomes Elle into his lap with a smile. He is a picture to her of her Heavenly Father’s love.
A peek into your authentic, meaningful relationship with God will have more impact on your child than 100 well-crafted Sunday School lessons.
WHAT TO SHARE: Teaching our kids about God is SO important. But modeling a dynamic relationship with Him goes even deeper. Let them see you praying, worshiping, reading your Bible. Engage them in conversation about who God is and what it means to follow Him. Invite them to pray WITH you, to go to church with you, to minister to others with you. Let them ask hard questions and don’t pretend to know all the answers. Walk the journey of discovering God together. Want to be more intentional about setting and living out of your Family Values? Grab your free copy of Shaping Your Family Values: A Simple Guide!
WHAT TO KEEP PRIVATE: Your unresolved anger towards God. Your wounds from the church. Instead of discussing these with your kids, take them directly to God. Find a pastor or counselor or trusted friend and work through them. You don’t have to be perfect to share your spiritual journey with your kids. But be willing to show them what healing and process look like too.
Like this post? You may also enjoy…
- 14 Romantic Dates on a Tiny Budget
- The Heart of Positive Discipline
- 5 Ways to Increase Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence
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