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Should You Tell Your Kid about Traumatic Family Events?

traumatic family events

Parenthood is a lifetime of protecting your children from the elements. From providing them with a supportive home environment to ensuring they have life’s basics, you are taking care of what’s important for your little ones. But there are some things that parents encounter and find difficult to cope with themselves. In this case, do you protect your children from these horrific things, or let your guard down to discuss them with youngsters? Should you tell your kid about traumatic family events?

How Shielding Your Kid from Traumatic Family Events Affects Them

Most parents feel a natural inclination to protect their children. But protecting them in every aspect of their life can make them ill-equipped to deal with things when they are older.

Of course, some subjects are difficult to deal with, especially if you are going through a difficult time yourself, and you don’t want your children to feel the same trauma as you. Adults who are close to you will likely say that if you can shield your children from it, then it’s best that you do so, but nobody can tell you how to parent your child.

Selecting Your Information Carefully

traumatic family events
Image by Pixabay

If there are traumatic family events, it’s going to be difficult to hide everything from the child. Also, when it comes to the questions of “should you tell your kid?”, well, they have a right to know what’s going on. An event like a grandparent going into a home is likely an emotionally taxing time for everyone, and if your child is old enough to pick up on the emotional changes in the home, you have to address this.

Now, that’s not to say that you go into the grisly details, especially if you are having a difficult time with them in the home. But it’s not like you need to go into the signs of nursing home abuse, or if there are struggles with the authorities.

It’s better for you to streamline your information, but also, ensure you have an open dialogue with your child. Of course, this means that they may have a lot of questions that can prove difficult to answer.

Should You Tell Your Kid: How to be Truthful Without Harming

You don’t need to go into every single item when you talk with your kid, especially if it’s graphic or if you’re having difficulty dealing with it. But it’s important for your children to know exactly what is going on in as transparent a way as possible.

After all, you have an obligation not to upset your children, but they still deserve to know the truth about the traumatic family events. This is an incredibly fine line to tread. Gauge the situation carefully because if you are struggling with the news then their seeing you upset may affect them even more than you anticipate.

Delivering bad news to a child can result in many outcomes. Protecting your kid is an instinct that parents naturally have in order to shield them from anything that could upset them, but there are times when this guard has to come down.

Why? Not only will letting your guard down help them to develop emotional intelligence throughout life, but it’s also news they need to know.


Top photo by Pexels

48 thoughts on “Should You Tell Your Kid about Traumatic Family Events?”

  1. Great post. Children are connected to their parent’s feelings, so they can be MORE frightened when they are aware things are being hidden from them. How can you trust adults when you sense they aren’t telling you the truth? My two cousins were in their early teens when their mother was hospitalized. Their father told them not to worry. They sat and worried that she had cancer and was going to die. Their parents eventually did tell them what was happening and it was not cancer nor was she at any huge risk of death. What they imagined was worse then the reality.
    Also, bad things do happen. I looked at my daughter’s graduating high school class and I knew of 5 seniors out of the 100 who had had parents die: and there may have been more. My sister died of cancer when her daughter and my daughter were 14. Our family talks about these things.

    1. You raise a great point about fear being so powerful… By knowing the truth they can then start to deal with it but if it’s the unknown that’s a whole other thing for kids and adults alike…

  2. Such a huge subject, thoughtfully approached by you here 👌🏼
    Two years ago when I was going through a traumatic time in my marriage and had assumed the only way forward was out, I chose to inform my older teenagers as to why.
    Certain ‘friends’ disagreed, saying I should hide the details.
    As my 18 months of counselling taught me, everyone outside my personal family space brings to the table their own version of life, from their learned behaviour and experiences. I stayed in my marriage and we are better for the counselling and I feel my teenagers watched a valuable life lesson unfold in front of them.
    The opinions I shared needed updating as I learnt more about myself .. and update them I did, on occasions when details could be shared.
    I have one boy and one girl. Both learned things about points of view. I’m
    pleased I shared… and didn’t listen to those no-longer friends…

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and for understanding this is not an easy topic to discuss. I think we feel in our gut what is okay to share with family. And it can be frustrating when we receive well-intended (or not) advice from others who aren’t in the family unit. I’m glad you sound content today. I wish you a nice day!

  3. Hi Christy,

    Yes there is definitely a thin line here.

    There are so many factors that plays into this.

    From how old the child is to whether or not someone wants others to know.

    When my mother took ill I wanted to let my grown children know.

    She advised me not to.

    I didn’t understand it at the time but I had to get my feeling out the way.

    It was about what she wanted not what I wanted.

    Also it depends on what kind of trauma.

    For instance if you were molested as a child is that something you tell your kids?

    Some people would say yes while others no.

    I know most trauma is passed down from generation to generation.

    I think once you define the purpose of telling them it would be an easier choice to make.

    Awesome topic!


    1. Great point about defining the purpose of telling them as a way to make the decision easier as a parent, Vernon. Thank you too for connecting to the post. I love that it inspired your own writing!

  4. I so agree. If you have ever watched a dramatic over the top lifetime movie, I am always annoyed when mom or dad says it is fine to the kid and then the psycho goes off and they are hit full force. Over protective poster child moments.

  5. Great piece Christy. I’m with you, yes, a parent should share information with their child. perhaps in smaller bite-sized pieces, but explain simply according to their age. Children aren’t stupid, they can sense when something is up. Just ask me, I grew up in the dark and learned to fact find at a young age because nobody ever explained anything to me. :) xx

  6. I was young when my mom suffered her first heart attack. It happened right as my dad put me on the bus to go to school even though I could tell something was wrong.

    I didn’t know something was seriously wrong until after school when my mom didn’t come and pick me up from my usual after school activities.

    My dad came and told me then that they’d had to resesitate her twice, and that she might not make the night.
    Was it right for them to keep that from me all day? I don’t think so, and even though my parents and I have dealt with the repercussions, it still broke the trust that I had in them when they didn’t include me until after.

    As an adult I completely understand why they made that choice. My poor father was probably too worried about whether my mom was going to make it to even have the logical thought to call the school to let me know. I don’t have children, and I probably never will, but I think that they know more, and they understand more than parents often time give themselves credit for.

    Any situation like a death or illness is immeasurably difficult, but I think attempting to get through it as a family is more important than keeping the situation from them.

    Certain details that won’t change the outcome? Depending on their age, it might not be as important to include all those, but I think that also depends on the maturity of the child.

    Sorry for the ramble, but I thought this might help parents have a potentially different perspective.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Sara, and for explaining how having details kept from you impacted your sense of trust. I can tell you’ve thought on this topic and your comment advances the conversation here.

  7. Great post, Christy. I believe it is so important to be honest with kids. I was on both ends – the kid getting traumatic news, and the adult giving the news. You were right on with this.

    1. So glad you find it deals with the matter, Loretta. You got through it, amazing woman you ♥

  8. Sometimes it’s better to give children at least the basic information about an incident instead of letting them wonder or search for details on their own. Children can be very perceptive, and are likely to notice something is affecting you, so telling them at least some information about the issue can reassure them and protect them more than trying to keep them completely in the dark.

    1. I think that kids are smarter than some parents give them credit for! Great feedback, Amy.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Heidi. Kids pick up on more than some parents may realize.

  9. I always knew when something was up at home and my parents wouldn’t tell me. Growing up, I wished they would have told me more, but I know why they didn’t: I was a worrier and they didn’t want to worry me. lol
    So this is great advice. I hope you have a wonderful coupla weeks. Sending you big hugs! xo

    1. Ooooh did their not telling you make you even more worried rather than less? Just curious. Thanks for your words here, C. You always leave great comments! I’ll be over to visit soon :)

  10. I was brought up where nothing was shielded from me, and I raised my own two sons the same way. I think less mollycoddling and more honesty is the best way to be, and I thank my mum for my good grounding in reality. This post has given me food for thought, so will give a link to this blog when I write my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Oh how flattering that this post is inspiration for your own writing, Stevie. The link back is appreciated. I look forward to reading more about your experiences in your upcoming post.

  11. You’re right, Christy. It is difficult to know how much to tell and how much not to tell. It will of course depend on the age and maturity of the child, the closeness of them to the situation, and the depth of feelings involved. I agree with Tiffany about honesty, but the way the information is delivered, and how much, needs to be tailored to fit the child.

    1. I was curious about what you thought of this one, Norah, given your educational background. There are many factors to consider, as you say, including the child’s maturity level. Thanks for taking time here ♥

  12. Really good post – thank you. I know this will sound like a quibble but I have to say it – as a parent, I never felt that parenthood was a lifetime of protecting your children from the elements – it was more about preparing them to deal with the elements. At my age, the highest hope I have for my children is that they look to themselves and not to me. I’m always there as an advisor or mentor – ultimately as a safety net that I hope they never have to use – but these days it’s more of a partnership and less a protectorate. Cheers, Brian

    1. This is a great comment and makes me step back to see another opinion – which I always appreciate!

    2. Thank you – likely a result of our age. We’re in our fifties and the children are both well on their way. Plenty of work to get them there but so good to look back and think about the journey. Plenty of skinned knees along the way – we let them fall from time to time but were also always there to help them up and figure out a better way. Thanks for all your great posts. Brian

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