Modeling is always the strongest message. You want your kids to be honest? You be honest, too!
What is transparency? The definition I like the most is; the quality that allows light to pass through, undisturbed. As a parenting metaphor, this is a great image; we’re transparent when there’s nothing clouding our interactions with our children.
Sex, drugs, money; they’re all topics that may have been avoided in your family of origin. But do you want your kids getting answers from the same unreliable sources you did? On the schoolyard, TV, your parents, the government?
The conspicuous silences in your communication are an OUT LOUD statement – about what’s inappropriate, shameful, unmentionable. If you want your kids getting different messages than the ones you were handed, make sure you’re giving voice to your opinions.
Normalize the topics that make you want to freeze up. Talk with your friends, talk with your trusted advisers; talk with your coach, your priest, your therapist, your doctor, talk with your parents, talk with your peers. Know that there’s a whole world of information out there. If you feel conflicted about your own ideas, educate yourself about different views.
If money was a hidden topic in your family and you feel that hasn’t served you in your quest for financial literacy, give your kids a head start by bringing them into alignment with your financial values. If you want your kids to know that sex is a thing to build clarity about, model it by having values-based conversations with your kids about how to define their own sexual values.
If your kids ask a question and you’re not ready to answer it, let them know you’re not ready to answer it. Never blame them for asking the question, but own your own discomfort.
With your nonjudgmental guidance and conscientious modeling, this process can begin before your kids are even bringing direct question to you for answers.
There is a line of balance – maybe it’s a tight-wire; don’t over share, or expect your kids to tell you all their deepest secrets. We all have a right to our boundaries, and our inner lives. But do create an environment where every question is valid, and every answer – even “I don’t know” – is too.
Here’s the bottom line; you want your kids to let you know what’s really happening in their lives? Let them into yours. You want your children to trust you enough to offer their transparency? Give them yours. You want your kids to be honest with you? Be honest with them.
Bonus Idea: Use my Sexual Ethics questionnaire for a tool that will help you find a starting place for these discussions. Write me at [email protected] for your free copy.