Why Sharing Your Struggles with Your Kids is Important
“Do we have to play in our rooms?”
“Why can’t we play video games?”
“He shot me with the Nerf gun when I said time out!”
What started as a peaceful morning slowly morphed into a day of bickering, boredom, and complaining from my three boys. And the more that was thrown at me, the shorter my fuse became.
Then I tripped. Literally.
Had it not been for my ninja-fast, dear-Jesus-don’t-let-me-go-down mavuever to stay upright, the trip over an extension cord would’ve sent me to the floor. As you can imagine though, this less-than-graceful effort came with the price tag of an excruciating neck and head ache.
These aches, added to the aggitation of the boys’ day-long ruckus, made me nothing shy of a rage monster.
AND THEN the kid made the noise… the atrociously loud, are-my-ears-bleeding, croaking-sound-from-only-breathing-inward noise!
He had been asked by his brothers and me repeatedly throughout the day to stop. Only he didn’t. And now the fuse reached the dynamite! I exploded!
My voice reached a decibel where my husband, who was knocking out drywall on another level of the house, came rushing to make sure there were no victims.
Except there were.
While my yelling momentarily shattering my son’s heart and his fun, I hurt the worst.
I felt disrespected, taken for granted, and unsupported. Pile on guilt pangs for how I treated my child and I was a mess. But no one noticed.
What was happening? Why does mom have to explode to be heard?
THE TRUTH… I was not communicating my needs, feelings, or struggles. Yet I was expecting everyone to automatically understand and soothe my pain.
Fast forward to the next morning when the boys and I went for a walk. They were less than thrilled so I made them a deal. If there were no issues, they could play video games when we returned.
Only once did the deal’s limits get pushed, resulting in the reminder, “So you don’t want video games today, huh?” But it was worrisome enough that gaming priveleges were the first thing asked about as we returned home.
Oh boys, we’re gonna have a talk first. A deep talk.
I opened up to them about how I had stopped taking my anxiety medication because my doctor thought I should “get that junk out of my system”. Fearing the medication was causing the surge in weight gain, I went off it. But mentally I was without. I was suffering because the circuit that had finally been properly connected was lacking again. Anger and mental turmoil was setting back in. And the coping mechanisms I had excelled with on medication were slipping without the clarity to put them to use.
I shared with the boys how my weight gain caused me to feel physically and mentally bad, and how the image I have of myself plagues me.
Tears streamed steadily down my face as I apologized for not holding it together better and for falling short of being the mom I want to be for them.
To help them understand better, I asked our youngest, the noise-making child, to stand next to me so I could show them something. With light, rapidly repeated taps, I began to poke him on the shoulder. I explained how my noise sensitivity (anxiety trigger) is like being poked over and over again. When he went to swat my hand away because “being poked was annoying”, I rationalized how swatting my hand was the same as me asking him to stop his noise.
“The longer the noise and craziness continues, the more irritating it gets. Even a light tap can become painful. With anxiety, its even worse.”
I expounded on how playing in their bedroom filled with toys and activities they’ve asked for isn’t a punishment. And how boredom is a good thing.
Concluding my talk was the reminder that we are called to love one another, which includes respecting each other’s needs. Our mental needs. Our need for space. And Mom and Dad’s need to work so we can honor the calling God has placed on our lives that provides for our family (including their activities).
In the 5-10 minutes of mom’s “share time” (or sermon on speed), a lot was covered and a lot of heart work happened.
The boys actually thanked me for sharing with them!
It was then I realized how unfair I had been expecting them to understand my needs when they didn’t know them or the ‘why’ behind them.
The lessons we think we’re teaching our kids on a daily basis, sometimes don’t reach their hearts because we’re delivering the message through yelling, sarcasm, busyness, or exasperation from repeating ourselves.
Sometimes our kids need to hear our struggles to understand the lesson.
The lessons I showed my boys that day were:
- brokenness is normal.
- no one’s life is perfect.
- even when things feel unfair or you don’t get what you want, your best interest is being looked after.
- show empathy and grace even if others don’t deserve it.
- love the heck out of people and love God even more because that’s what we were created to do.
Friend, this is not a story I’m proud to share, but its good for us to know we’re not alone in our struggles and to know it’s okay to share those struggles with our kids. (Sharing = good; dumping on, lecturing, or guilting = no.)
Our kids learn best by watching us. Are you modeling how to hide your struggles OR how to run to God to help you through?
Allowing them to watch you walk through obstacles in your life teaches them the coping skills they need to be successful in theirs.
Sharing with your kids, both the good and the troublesome, builds trust. It shows you trust and love them enough to be honest and vulnerable. It breaks down walls and allows for conversation and growth. Isn’t that what we all long for in our relationships with our children?
Praying for your sanity, struggles & relationships!