My son walked into my bedroom on the day we had to put our sweet dog, Hazel, down and asked me where she was.
She was there when he came home from the hospital all the way until he was 3 years old. He loved her very much. He could tell something wasn’t right because mom and dad were sad and Hazel wasn’t at home. When he asked me where she was, I had several things run through my mind.
“Hazel is at your grandma’s house, son!” — That wasn’t a lie, but also not the whole truth.
“She is at a friend’s house…resting.” — That was farther from the truth, but not a total lie.
All these things ran through my mind as his sweet, innocent face stared at me waiting for an answer.
I ended up telling him, “Hazel is in heaven with God. We won’t see her for a while, but one day we will.” — He asked me several more questions but in the end he was satisfied.
After he walked out of my room, I had the thought, “Why am I trying to skirt around telling the truth?” I realized telling him the truth would make me uncomfortable. It could bring up questions that I may not feel prepared to answer. It would make me face a part of parenting I wasn’t prepared for – teaching my child about grief and how to deal with it.
Basically, I didn’t want to be transparent with him because it would make things difficult on me. This was such a distortion from the enemy and I didn’t even realize it. Over the next several days, as I processed the fact I tried to lie to my son to make myself feel more comfortable, I tried to remember times where I had done that before. I realized – I have done it with friends, college professors, co-workers, and definitely my parents. When did this lack of transparency start? Answer: When I was a teenager. I wouldn’t want to talk about things that forced me to be fully honest, tell my feelings, or that made me feel inadequate or uncomfortable. I believed this distortion from the enemy.
This was not a pattern I wanted to impart on my kids and if I desired change – I needed God to change and equip my heart.
The bible has a constant theme of transparency all throughout it. The Lord pleads us to transparency starting in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible. Adam and Eve walked in Eden, naked. They were fully exposed with nothing to hide mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. They walked in full transparency with the Lord. This is how God intends our relationship with Him to be. We can share that same transparency with our kids.
Do you want to establish a pattern of transparency for your kids?
Here are 4 ways we can pursue a pattern of transparency:
1) Don’t shy away from awkward questions.
Start when they are young!! My oldest son is four years old now and he has no filters. He feels like he can ask me, and usually anyone else, anything that comes into his creative mind. Cultivate that! Give them age appropriate and honest answers. The road to transparency starts early!
2) Be willing to apologize to your kids.
Telling your kids when you do something wrong is a great way to teach your kids how to be transparent. Don’t let the parental hierarchy keep you from being an amazing example of how we are meant to be before the Lord.
3) Be vulnerable.
There will be times when your teenage kids want to ask you hard questions. Questions like, “Did you drink before you were 21?” or, “Did you have sex before you were married?” What about, “Have you ever questioned that God was real?”
When you don’t want to answer a question because it makes you feel weird, awkward or uncomfortable – answer anyway. Teach them that their questions have a safe space to go and that safe space is with you. If it’s not with you then it will be with someone else. Remember, breaking the pattern is hard. It starts with the weird questions and ends with the hard questions.
4) Always point your kids back to the Lord.
When your kids ask you questions that are hard for you to answer – it is the golden opportunity as a parent to point them back to the Lord.
Maybe you have to admit that had an addiction – remind them of how the Lord brought you out of it.
What if you have to answer all the questions about sex – tell them of the Lord’s design and intention for sex.
Or, when you have to walk them through gracefully ending a toxic friendship – remind them of how the Lord prunes the leaves in our lives to bring the healthy fruit.
These conversations that are hard for us are ministry opportunities. Always lead them back to the Lord. Before we have to think about questions to ask our kids to get them talking, let’s start answering their questions to keep them asking. Create the safe space. Be vulnerable. Be transparent. Be honest and open with your kids when they ask the weird and hard stuff.
It is how God intended our relationships to be.