I feel that it is my job to present the world as it is to my kids. This is, after all, the world they are set to inherit, and I want them to understand that things won’t always be easy and to set their expectations accordingly. Sometimes life is unfair, and sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan, or hope for, them to.
As such, I am very honest with my kids when things don’t work out as we had hoped (i.e. “We weren’t approved for financing on the house we all loved”, or “Grandma’s cancer is back because the chemo didn’t work. We’re all pretty sad about it”, or “I’ve been laid off. Sometimes bosses have to make tough decisions for the greater good of the company”). I tell them it’s okay if they feel sad or angry, and often will share how I feel about it, too. Then, they watch me deal with the challenge, hopefully taking it all in for later, to make decisions in their own lives.
I regularly encourage them to have conversations that push them outside their comfort zones, such as always calling a relative who sent a birthday or Christmas gift to thank them, and being honest with gift-givers if asked whether the present is liked/will be used. At least in my family, we want to make sure the gift is appreciated, and if it’s not, have the opportunity to return or exchange it – no hard feelings!
When someone my kids know loses a loved one, I insist that my child acknowledge the loss out loud with the person. I’ve explained that saying something as simple as, “I was sad to hear about your Uncle. My condolences.” goes a long way to making the person feel comfortable, and as empathetic people, it’s far more important for us to provide our friend comfort, than to avoid having an awkward conversation because it feels uncomfortable for us.
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