I wrote this in 2010 for The Dallas Morning News’ Mom’s Briefing Panel.
Not much has changed except for my children’s ages.
When my husband and I were newly married and without kids of our own, I was a Young Life volunteer at an area high school. I led Bible studies for a group of girls from their freshman year until they graduated.
Although I was the leader, I may have learned more than they did.
There was one particular lesson I filed away in the don’t-you-dare-forget-this-when-you- have-kids vault. I was talking with the high school girls about openness with their parents, and they were pretty much balking at the idea of sharing the details of their lives with them.
It turns out, many of their mothers participated in a regular lunch that, as the girls described it, was just a big gossip session – who was grounded for sneaking out, who was no longer a “good girl,” etc.
The girls said they didn’t want to share big things with their mothers for fear of their mothers sharing the details at the lunch. So they chose not to discuss at all.
If only these mothers knew that they were trading in a closer relationship with their daughters for participation in these perceived gossip sessions.
As parents, I think we do take “ownership” of our children’s stories, phases, victories and struggles. I know I do. However, using discretion in what is shared about children – especially as they get older – may lead to a closer relationship with them.
I don’t want anything to be off limits or “too big” for my kids to discuss with me. So on my end, I need to earn their trust by practicing discernment in what I share with others.
Children will not trust a parent who they perceive is standing by with a megaphone to blast their secrets or struggles. And for a teen, that can be something as seemingly small as an acne breakout before the homecoming dance. It doesn’t have to be a big issue, just something they don’t want made public.
Even though my kids are only 5, 3 and 1, I am laying the groundwork to earn their trust now. For example, when I post anything about my kids on social media, I do so in a positive light. I don’t share my frustrations or struggles in that online forum.
It’s not that I’m trying to be something I’m not – or trying to project the image of a perfect family. But I have hundreds “friends” on Facebook; it’s not the right forum for me to share things about my kids that might paint them in a negative light or embarrass them. Besides, in a few years they will probably have Facebook accounts of their own and will see everything I post.
To that end, I also wouldn’t want to see my kids posting something negative (or just TMI) about me: bad mood, a private health matter, pictures of what I look like first thing in the morning. I can set the tone now and give them an example of how and what is appropriate to communicate online.
However, there may be instances when my husband and I will engage others in matters concerning our kids. If we are having an issue with one of our children, we will seek the wise counsel of a few trusted friends who share the same beliefs – with our children’s full knowledge.
These will be people our children know and trust. We are raising our kids to seek wise counsel when they have a problem, and we want to show them that even as adults, we need to do the same.
It’s a balancing act, for sure. I’m not going to be totally tight-lipped or a completely open book when dealing with my kids’ information. I’m hoping I will have the discernment to know what is appropriate for the situation.
I know whom I can trust with my stuff and whom I can’t. Kids do, too.
I want my kids to trust me. If that means I have to hold my tongue a bit, I’m more than willing.
And be honest, aren’t we glad there was no Facebook when we were kids?
What are your guidelines for sharing about your children online or with friends?
“Trust” lettering above by Daily Lettering