Mother-of-two Erica Diamond, a women's success coach and the founder of womenonthefence.com, shares what you should and shouldn't share with your children about your personal relationships.
1. On keeping them informed
Many people think it's best to avoid sharing certain topics with their children because of how impressionable they are. But Diamond, whose mother was a therapist and shared everything with her early on, knows that knowledge is power. Keeping secrets and over-sheltering your kids is a lot worse.
"A sheltered child is someone who can't cope in the real world. When we know better we can teach, and we can understand," says Diamond. "If kids aren't given the proper tools or an open dialogue it can do more harm than good."
By talking about touchy topics (such as where babies come from, if you've ever gotten drunk or done drugs, etc.) you have the opportunity to use your mistakes and what you've learned from them, to equip your kids with the tools they need to make good decisions.
2. On the birds and the bees
When you're parenting, sometimes actions speak louder than words, So it's important for you and your partner to show affection all the time so your children can see what a loving relationship looks like. It sets the tone for them to have loving relationships themselves when they grow up.
"When you show and model a loving, warm and affectionate relationship between you and their father, your kids will feel confident and comforted that their parents are in a healthy relationship that feels safe," says Diamond.
Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to answer your kids' questions about love and sex on page 2
A kiss on the lips, a peck, embracing, hugging and handholding are all completely appropriate actions for parents to do in front of their kids. "But, I still go back to my dialogue that when mommy and daddy go to bed at night they do loving things that couples do," adds Diamond. She says it's important for kids to know that loving, married couples have their own private time behind closed doors.
3. On answering tough questions
What happens if your kids hear something inappropriate in the schoolyard, such as something in the swearing, sex or drugs categories? Diamond has an "If they ask, I will answer" policy. "No matter how old they are I will answer them in whatever way is appropriate for their age," she says. "The minute they ask, I give an absolute straight answer."
Diamond says that you owe it to your kids to give them an age-appropriate answer and that you should be very clear that they can come to you with anything they're confused about or don't understand. "I encourage my children to ask questions," says Diamond. "They should know that home is home base. Home is safety." By creating an atmosphere where they feel safe coming to you, you'll promote an honest and open relationship.
4. On anger and frustration with your spouse
You absolutely should not bash your spouse, in-laws, extended family or your child's teacher in front of your children. Not only does this put your kids in a position of taking sides, but it also clouds their judgment of the person being put down. "If you don't like what your husband does, or what Grandma or Grandpa do, speak to them directly and privately, when the kids aren't around," says Diamond.
Or better yet, take a playful approach to avoid conflict. Instead of saying, "You're so lazy, you left your underwear on the bathroom floor again. What am I your maid?" Diamond advises using your most playful voice to say something like: "Silly Daddy, you left your underwear on the floor again! We all know when we get in the shower the underwear goes into the laundry! Oh, daddy!" Diamond uses this approach with her husband to show the children that they too need to put their things away and not be lazy.
Children are extremely impressionable and it is important to be honest with them in age-appropriate ways. Follow Diamond's rules to creating an open dialogue in your home with your kids. Embrace your kids' curiosity -- it will help prepare them to become well-adjusted adults.
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