The reality is that the child knows something. Just like an animal can smell danger, your child can feel the tension in the house, even if he or she can’t describe in words what’s wrong. If your child doesn’t get your help in understanding the family problem, he or she can only imagine what’s going on — and usually imagines the worst.
I have had four-year-olds tell me of their parents’ pending divorce, when not even the respective spouses knew, but it eventually proved to be true. I have had ten-year-olds tell me the extent of Dad’s alcohol problem, down to where he hides his bottles, when Mom was still in denial about her husband’s alcoholism. I have had teenagers tell me of a parent’s extramarital affair because they were afraid to tell this “secret” to anyone else.
Some children handle these psychological traumas poorly. Some coast on by without a scratch. Others have problems at home but not at school. The bottom line is that “it all depends”. What it depends on is how the trauma is handled by the child and his or her parents and significant others. As the child’s primary role model, you can reframe the trauma into a learning experience. Your child will experience many difficult times while growing up, and adult life is certainly not problem-free either.
By working with your child to resolve his or her feelings of fear, anger, and grief, and by also working through your own, you’re helping your child learn how to handle the stresses and strains of human life. As parents we may feel that our children should never have to suffer. However, another way to look at suffering is that it’s an opportunity to grow, to become stronger, more resilient.
As parents, don’t deprive your children of experiencing the hardships that face the family or the business. For example, don’t hide dissension between you and your spouse. A fair fight between Mom and Dad that results in a fair and appropriate resolution gives your child a chance to see how conflicts get resolved. If you shelter your children from the hard times, they may not know that hard times exist ahead for them, and they may not learn how to cope when they do come.
Obviously, you don’t want to expose your child to harm, nor use the sink-or-swim method of parenting. Yet as you act in your role as family leader, you can assist him or her in discovering every aspect of life, the good as well as the bad. You can encourage your child to use his or her resources to resolve new problems, thus building your child’s confidence that he or she can handle tough things. You can demonstrate that even though life is no cakewalk, you are open to learning new things. You can resolve most of the dilemmas that life dishes out.
Read more on my website: Am I a Good Parent? If you could use help resolving a problem in your marriage, your relationship with your children or both and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.