Genuine Fear and False Guilt

Based on my children's past experience, I have tried to keep myself very healthy, so that they'd have no cause for alarm. Even when I was sick, I did tried not to make a big deal of it. Not that I was trying to keep the truth from them, but I didn't want to give them something real to worry about... ie: parents get sick, and then they die. I'm afraid that's all too common in Ethiopia, and other countries, where entire generations are being wiped out.

Lee stayed home from work on Friday, and was very sick with a head cold. When the kids got up, I told them that Daddy was home and that he was probably going to sleep for a long time. Yordanos said "Daddy sick, again, again, again? No work today, again, again, again? No food, then Yordanos and Habtamu..." then she made the "dead" face (head and arms back, tongue hanging out.)

I made sure to reassure them both many times that day that Daddy just had a cold, and would be ok in a couple of days. And that No, he won't be going to work tomorrow or Sunday or Monday (holiday), but that Tuesday he would go back. Yordanos then said "Tuesday work? Then no more work? Then Y & H (dead face)?" It breaks my heart that they have to worry about that... and that there are MILLIONS of children that don't have the chance that Y&H have now.

How do you all reassure your children in difficult times, or when times are uncertain? I won't lie to them, but I don't want to burden them with adult worries or cares.

[When we were at the Hilton in Addis Ababa, we had a HUGE language barrier, obviously, and one of the maids was helping us interpret. She was very kind, but when Yordanos told her that she was afraid to fly, the maid told her "Oh, you don't have to fly, you'll get into a big car, and I'll meet you there, and you'll get lots of candy." Um. Not helping. So we had to do damage control with someone else.]

Today, one of the windows in my car broke. Yordanos happened to be the one pushing the button at the time. She felt terrible and cried and would not be comforted. We kept trying to explain that it was not her fault, that we were not mad at her, that the car is old, and it could have happened to anyone. She calmed down after a bit and I told her again that (see above)...

How do you all get your children to not take on guilt that is not their own? (I had a huge problem with this until I was in my late 20s... I'd like to help them not have that burden.)


Katherine said...

As for reassuring them regarding life worries (or anything, for that matter), not lying is a must, in my opinion. I just tell my kids like it is, in as gentle a way as possible (and in kid-terms). We talk about 'big' stuff a lot, and that helps them understand. "everyone dies/no one knows when/people get sick/people don't have food sometimes/etc". I figure they have to learn that stuff anyway, so why build up false ideas?

As for the guilt issue, that's kind of hard. One time, Kai woke up in the middle of the night with a massive diarrhea attack. It was everywhere, and as I've mentioned to you before, I'm not the best midnight mommy out there. In addition to that, I have a big problem with poop being everywhere and having to clean everything at still-dark-o'clock, even the bugs are sleeping time. I kind of blew my stack and then had to give Kai a shower to boot. Needless to say, we had a big discussion the next morning. I reassured him that nothing he could ever do would ever make me stop loving him. (don't be afraid to tell your kids this again and again and again) I also told him that my anger wasn't his problem to deal with, but mine, and I would deal with it. I also told him how I felt about being woken up and having a poop issue in the middle of the night, and that, yes, he should of course tell me and not be afraid of me being mad (since that's my issue), but that I would, in all likelihood, get mad if it happens again. He had said that he was scared to wake me up, but we talked it over and he understood how I felt and I understood him (we had a 'moment').

I also find it helps to let the kids know that Mommy and Daddy are human too, and we aren't perfect and don't always act like we should and that we make mistakes. I also have found it helps if parents aren't afraid to apologize and ask forgiveness. Kids get that, and respect it. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject!

Sarah said...

My kids are younger(3& 5.5), but we do a lot of hugging and cuddling, talking about how things have always been OK before (specifically, Daddy always comes home from his army trips and talk about what we will do when the trials is over). We are open about real problems (people get sick and die, usually when they're quite old,) but I always emphasize something joyful along with it (and if they trust Jesus they love in heaven with Him forever, like Grandpa). We've not brought up the scary outcomes the kids have not thought of (casualties) but obviously your kids have thought of that. Sometimes I talk in simplified terms about how I handle it (I cry, I pray, I do somethign that makes me happy or helps someone else) and after they've had a good cry and cuddle, get them doing something to take their minds off it. Often have to repeat this a couple times a day, for a few days, when Daddy just left. So far so good, as far as I can tell.

False guilt, hmm. I've no idea how this will turn out but we also apologize to our kids when we wrong them, and ask forgiveness, and prompt them to do the same when they wrong each other. Sometimes with the 5-yr-old we hvae long conversations about wrongdoers in class, on the playground, etc. about times I've done wrong things and was punished (maybe it helps that they've been with me during 2 speeding traffic stops) and a few occasions when someone criticized me or does something different from me and I stuck to my way because I believed I was right. I try to clarify when disciplining them what was disobedient and what was not, if there's a question. I hope they're picking up what is their responsibility and what is not from all this. I don't see them carrying around false guilt but mine are young for that. Hope someone else has good ideas. :-)