As a parent, how do you shelter your kids from these sometimes harmful situations?
Before you get too excited about how you need to parent your kids when it comes to family choices, you have to take an honest look at how you deal with family drama. Do you feed into it? Do you thrive on it? Does the latest dirt on someone in your family give you something to talk about for weeks?
If you are a drama queen or king, your kids will start to form opinions about family members based on what they've heard you say. Let's take a look at why this is less than ideal.
Suppose that your mother-in-law is a selfish pain in the neck who undermines you every chance she gets. She drives you crazy, hurts your feelings and in general makes your life a living hell. While that sucks for you, as a parent you have to take the high road. Your relationship with your mother-in-law is independent of your kids' relationship with their grandmother. She may be the worst mother-in-law ever, but she may be a wonderful grandmother. You don't want to rob your kids of a relationship that they need and deserve. Your kids will figure out what kind of person their relatives are all on their own. It will take time, but it will happen.
Most families have a relative that is constantly in trouble. He's the uncle who can't keep a job. She's the sister who has been married several times. He's the teenager who does drugs. She's the girl in college who got pregnant. It happens in every family. You don't have to shelter your kids from these people. To the contrary, use them as an example of how challenging life can be when you don't make good choices.
Be gentle when discussing the troubled relative. If your child says something like, "Why does Jim do drugs?" (because your child has heard the family gossip) just say, "You know, Jim isn't necessarily a bad person, but he does make bad choices and he pays a price for those choices. It's sad that he doesn't have a girlfriend, a home to call his own and a job to help his pay his bills."
Some families have people in them that are self-destructive. They don't want to get help, and they sure don't want help from you. If you think it's in your child's best interest to keep him from that person until your child develops the cognitive skills for comprehending the situation, go right ahead. When people choose to live their lives a certain way, they are actively choosing to alienate themselves from some family members, and in their state of mind, they are perfectly OK with it. It's your prerogative as a parent to protect your child from potentially harmful family members and family situations until that person straightens out.
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