Children can open up to parents and guardians about their successes and struggles

Parents need to develop an attitude of conversation with their children. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Parents and guardians need to develop an attitude of conversation with their children, regardless of how demanding one’s job is.

Parents and guardians have the moral duty to nurture their children and guide them towards internalizing the moral values that are cherished in the society.

Children have the moral obligation to learn these good values and to accept them as margins prescribing boundaries in societal living.

With the shared life at home and this constant exchange of such core treasures of the society that parents and guardians impart in children, their relationship is built on love and trust.

On the side of love, we have the affection from both ends to the other and a sense of value that would not end for life.

There might be difficulties in the future but this relationship is too important that one’s story cannot be told without a mention of it.

On the side of trust, the family is a hub for very intimate commonality and vulnerability.

The presence of the family bond underlies the trust that no one will harm the other, and all wish for the good of others.

This is why when trust is broken among family members, there are chances of one leaving.

This is because trust is fundamental and it brings confidence about interdependence and unity as well as everyone’s well-being.

Parents and guardians as Trusted Adults

Speaking with colleagues who are senior experts in the Kiswahili language, we are yet to learn if there is a Kiswahili concept of ‘Trusted Adults.’

There are literal translations of course, but we need a proper vocabulary as this concept is key in the holistic interplay of children and adults in and out of the family setting.

Parents and guardians are the primary trusted adults. This trust is accorded to them despite them being poor, disabled, old, less educated, living in the village, etc.

They remain to be key trusted adults for their children. Their being trusted adults entails that children are safe in their care and they have at heart the children’s best interest.

Children should not dislike their parents and guardians nor compare them with other people who might seem better than their parents and guardians.

Admiration of the rich can make a poor child ashamed of his or her poor parents or guardians, a craving for a posh city lifestyle can make a child ashamed of his or her parents or guardians who sweat their brows out in the village.

While other adults can make an impression of successful role models, they are not automatically successful parents and guardians.

Rich and successful uncles and aunts cannot replace parents. I overheard a child once telling his struggling mother to buy him a ball, and when the mother said she didn’t have money that day, he shrugged with entitlement, pouted his lips and said confidently, ‘My uncle will buy it for me.’

This attitude is dangerous as it displaces the trust upon parents, in that, what cannot be provided today can be awaited for another day when it can be provided.

The openness of parents needs to be accepted by children just the same way the openness of children is to be accepted by parents.

Sharing difficulties

It is a fact that our parents and guardians have more experience in life than ourselves.

Except where things have gone wrong and the bonds are broken, parents and guardians have a treasure of wisdom for life.

Children should feel free to speak out about their challenges as well as successes.

While parents can be displeased when provoked or when children do not behave well, that is not their nature.

It is their moral duty to correct their children and guide them for the best.

They are like gardeners who prune trees and hedges for them to be in their best shape.

That role should not be intermixed with the role of parents and guardians as loving protectors and friends.

I witnessed a bitter exchange between parents and a teacher in England where the teacher told the child to confide in her if anything was happening in his life, and not to his parents.

The child believed and he was no longer confiding in his parents.

This was very wrong as the teacher compromised the bond of trust that naturally exists between parents and children. Some adults may tend to do the same thing.

Sharing the experiences with parents is very important as it helps them to protect the child and recognise their needs, passions, preferences and soft spots.

For instance, when parents or guardians at home ask the child: “How was your day?” The expected response is not a simple affirmation that the day was fine; they expect a more meaningful conversation which expresses both the experiences and feelings of the child.

Deep within them they really want to learn what happened in their child’s life in the course of the whole day.

Parents are interested in knowing about the people their children meet, the friends they associate with, the things they see, the games they play, what they learn in school, and so on.

Parents are delighted to hear from children about everything. For children, being open is a sign of healthy psycho-social maturity and a good state of mind whereby the child is ready to be guided even in matters that are exclusively personal.

Tips for parents and guardians

The more parents are less volatile and prone to exploding in anger and violence the higher the chances of children being more open to them.

Parents should not expect children to open up to them when they are violent or abusive to them, always hunting for faults in them, not complementing their efforts, and not allowing them breathing space.

Toxic energy can only lead to more toxicity in the household. Children learn to accord trust and respect the more they see trust and respect being accorded among the people they live with.

These social behaviours are learnt. Also, parents should wear the shoes of problem solvers.

This entails taking the complaints children make seriously and seeking to find the truth about them.

In the end, parents ought to come up with a solution that will make their children happy.

Parents should not overlook matters and presume that children are lying or just nagging, especially in matters of their safety or where other adults are involved.

At the moment there are so many people with strange behaviours among children, and they all attempt to be wise in their deception.

Equally, parents and guardians need to develop even more an attitude of conversation with their children regardless of how demanding one’s job is.

There are many strange things children experience for which they need the support and guidance of parents who are truly there for them. The more parents engage with children the more children open up to them.