Tell the truth?
Mark and Kim tried to conceive a baby for two years. After some medical tests, the young couple finally accepted that it would be impossible for them to have a baby of their own. After days of anguished discussion, they decided to try AID or Artificial Insemination by Donor. After a few months, Kim became pregnant and later they were both the proud parents of a beautiful baby daughter, Amy. But now they wondered, when Amy is old enough, should they tell her how she was conceived. Should they tell her that Mark is not her biological father?
Most families have had complicated life experiences of one kind or another. Some parents may have been less than perfect teenagers. Their histories may include drug or alcohol abuse, school problems or even legal difficulties. Some adults may have had a previous marriage when they were young that they would just as soon forget about. Should parents tell their children the truth, no matter what the consequences? How do parents decide when to tell their kids the truth?
These are thorny questions. Indeed, they raise an even larger parental dilemma: Is it ever permissible to lie to children in order to spare them pain and confusion. Or, should we tell the children the truth no matter what the consequences? How do parents decide?
Below are a number of important points to consider:
- Do other family members or friends know this information? Family secrets have a way of being disclosed in the worst ways at the worst times. Will your child hear about these events from someone else? It is often very distressing for children to hear important information from someone other than their parent. They can feel betrayed.
- What kind of adults do we want our children to become? In life, the truth can be involved, confusing and painful. Children depend on parents to untangle complex life experiences so that they are less confusing and more comprehensible to them. They depend on parents to help them cope with the discomfort of life’s sometimes painful twists and turns. They rely on their trust in their parents. If that trust is broken, much can be lost.
And, if we want our children to tell us the truth when their lives become more complicated, we need to model that behavior throughout their childhood—not just when it is convenient or easy for us.
- Do we have trust and faith in ourselves and our children? We must have faith that our youngster will come to understand our difficult life decisions. These lessons will help them become open, honest, and responsible adults. Our goal as parents is to prepare children for adult life—to be able to navigate through the periodic rough waters of life.
- Don’t lie to children. There is a difference between telling a child everything…and lying. Kids have a way of asking parents the tough questions. In the long run, it is always better to be honest.
Please share your thoughts and experiences.