About whether it is always necessary to tell the truth to children, our expert, psychologist Igor Pavlov, argues.
To lie or not to lie - that is the question… Sometimes it is really difficult to tell a child the truth. Especially if something unpleasant happened and we do not want to hurt the baby by telling him about what happened. This could be the death of a loved one, the breakup of a family, or, for example, a tragedy shown on TV.
But even in more innocent situations, adults often resort to lies when communicating with children. Sometimes we do this because it is unpleasant or painful for us to talk about something with a child, sometimes because it is convenient for us. And sometimes time out of habit so that the child gets rid of his “stupid” questions, does not get in the way or stops whining. So, bringing your baby to kindergarten in the morning, it's easier to tell him that it's only for 5 minutes than to find the strength to explain that he will stay here all day and help him cope with the experience of temporary separation.
In some families, cheating on children is becoming commonplace. And few adults think about what consequences it can lead to.
Aftertaste of lies
The uttered lie leaves a bitter residue on the lips of the parent and in the soul of the child. And, even if it seems to us that this is a “white lie” or that the child will never guess about the deception, the consequences will somehow affect our relationship with him.
Firstly, the child sincerely trusts adults for the time being. But, if they abuse his trust too often, sooner or later he begins to feel when his parents are hiding somewhere or hiding the truth from him. On this occasion, the famous child psychoanalyst Françoise Doltot wrote that “in the family, children and dogs always know everything, especially what they don’t talk about.”
Secondly, the realization that parents can lie undermines their trust, and henceforth the child begins to doubt any words spoken by adults, even if their truth is obvious. Such a child next time will prefer to seek the truth and truthful answers to his questions outside the family - from friends, buddies or other adults who will be more trusted.
Thirdly, hiding the truth from the child or keeping silent about some disturbing events, the baby will not be slow to compensate with his own fantasies. All children are wonderful inventors, and if they don’t know or don’t understand something, they invent it themselves. For example, a small child, from whom it was hidden that the grandmother died from a serious illness, can easily decide that the grandmother died because he did not obey her or was rude to her shortly before her death. Some childhood fantasies and speculations can be even more emotionally damaging to a child than knowing the truth.
And, fourthly, by deceiving a child, we ourselves teach him to lie. Our deception turns against us when a child, growing up, prefers to hide from us the truth about how and where he spends his free time, what grades he gets at school and what problems he faces.
"But in fact, there are situations when it is simply impossible to tell a child the truth!" Let's take a look at the most common ones and think about how to be honest with yourself and your child under any circumstances.
Is Santa Claus real?
It's almost two months before the New Year, but the image of Santa Claus is already gradually beginning to fill children's minds. Will he come or won't he? Give or not give? Not all modern children are selflessly waiting for Santa Claus, and in general they believe in New Year's miracles. At this time, they are most interested in another question: “Does Santa Claus exist or does it really not exist?” In this case, should adults insist on the existence of a kind old man with a bag of gifts? An innocent and very popular story: Parents are tempted to trick their children into using the image of Santa Claus to their advantage by getting their child to behave on New Year's Eve.
But no matter how tempting it may seem to adults to call on Santa Claus as allies in raising a child, you should not do this, just as you should not insist on his existence if the child begins to doubt it.
We all outgrow faith in Santa Claus. For some, the debunking of this New Year's myth brings disappointment and annoyance, and for some of the children it makes them feel more grown-up. So don't be afraid to be the right person to help your child move up a notch in their growing up. Let the child understand that, despite the fictional character of Santa Claus, he still remains the main symbol of the New Year for children and adults, without which the holiday would not be so bright. And what about gifts, then assure the baby that he will definitely receive his New Year's gift, because giving gifts to each other is an obligatory New Year's tradition.
Is your mother already dead?
When I was working as a psychologist in a kindergarten, one day a three-year-old boy came up to me and asked: “Is your mother already dead?” Some experience told him that most adults have parents who grow old and die. Therefore, according to his logic, my parents should have already died. With childish spontaneity, he decided to immediately test his hypothesis by asking me a question directly on the forehead. This boy, at the age of three, could calmly talk about death, realizing that people leave us at the end of their lives. Unfortunately, not all adults are ready to calmly discuss issues related to dying with children as well.
When someone dies in the family or on TV, when we hear about massacres or terrorist attacks on the news, we try by all means to protect children from facing death. But children think about death much more often than adults think. The most inquisitive of them begin to ask us questions as early as 3-4 years. Is it worth talking to children about death in such cases? Yes. Especially if someone close to the child died in your family, if the baby saw someone's death on TV and it haunts him.
But you shouldn't say more than the child wants to hear. It is best for kids to explain what death is and why people die using specific examples with animals and insects. And then it is best to follow the logic of asking the child.
Of course, a child's own curiosity and what he wants to know about death can frighten him. But, if you correctly build a dialogue, the child is not threatened by the emergence of new fears. For example, if we are talking to a child about a murder he has seen in a movie or shown on the news, you should always reassure the child that he is safe and that most people around him will not harm him.
In no case should you hide from a child if one of the family members and people close to him has died. Excuses like “grandfather went very far” or “your aunt went on a trip” against the background of the general mourning atmosphere prevailing in the house will confuse the child even more. And for children, there is nothing worse than a feeling of uncertainty and innuendo.
A child, like any adult, has the right to learn about the death of a loved one and experience his little grief.
This doctor won't hurt me?
What is sex?
Sex-related issues begin to worry children long before they hit puberty. And, before moving on, having matured, to "practice", the kids can not wait to figure out the "theory". But this only speaks of the natural interest of babies in life in all its manifestations.
Hearing this “forbidden” word from your child, do not rush to wash his mouth with laundry soap. Ask what meaning he puts into it. Young children can call sex different things.
In any case, whether the child will let it slip in your presence or directly ask, this is a good reason to talk to him. To talk without moralizing and reproaches, without shame and deliberate disgust for this topic. No matter how old a child is, he always has the right to find out how he actually came into this world. And what should change - depending on the age of the child - is not our versions of the birth of children, but the words with which we will answer his intimate questions.
When will dad be back?
Children suffer the most in divorce. Moreover, the most painful thing for a child may not be the fact of a divorce, but the concealment of information from him and the pretense of adults.
I have met children who sincerely believed (with the help of their mothers) that their dad was on a business trip or working somewhere else, and therefore he was not at home. The kids did not suspect that dad would never again appear on the threshold of their house or would come to them very rarely now. They waited for him and asked their mother questions more and more insistently - until they were visited by a vague guess that they were left without a father. The reaction to this discovery was the most unpredictable.
Of course, it is painful and unpleasant to talk to a child about the fact that mom and dad are breaking up. It is very difficult to find the right words for this. But without this, you will only give him ground for frightening fantasies. For example, a toddler might imagine that daddy left home because he misbehaved - because kids tend to take the blame in such cases.
Try to be truthful with the child and explain to him that dad will now live separately, that this is normal and that many children have parents living separately.
But you shouldn't be too frank with young children and tell them that dad cheated on mom or drank. Maybe you will feel better because you speak out, but such a “truth” can only do harm to a small child. It is with children of middle school and adolescence that you can discuss the problems that arise in relationships, and count on their understanding.
It's important for preschoolers and younger students to maintain a positive image of their parents, so dose the truth about divorce according to the child's age. Sometimes it is better to just remain silent about something than to deceive.
1. Never dismiss your child's questions that seem untimely, difficult or unpleasant to you. Believe me, children do not ask questions when they are not yet psychologically ripe for this. You should not get off with a joke or the phrase: "Grow up - you will know." The child is unlikely to wait until he grows up, but most likely he will never turn to you again.
2. Be attentive to the child's questions and try to understand what exactly he wants to hear in response. Try forwarding the question to him himself and ask what he himself thinks about this. Sometimes it turns out that the child has already found a suitable answer for himself and he only needs your confirmation.
3. Do not rush to post all the information right away, start with the main and the simplest, answer the child's questions in a dosed manner. If the child is interested, he will ask you more questions, and you, in turn, can turn the conversation into a fascinating dialogue.
4. Treat each situation as an opportunity to make your relationship with your child more intimate and open. Show him by your own example that trust is the most important thing between loved ones. Without the fear of being punished or ridiculed for the "wrong" question, he will grow up to be a confident and inquisitive person.
5. Don't be afraid to ask yourself questions and don't self-deceive when something really goes wrong. When we are honest with ourselves, we will always find the right and right words for our child.