The Secret Life of Children

When I was a child, I had several things that I kept hidden from my parents.

Some things were small and inconsequential, like when a girl in my 7th grade class gave me a calendar with Mickey and Minnie mouse kissing on the cover.

Some things were bigger and more consequential, like when I was 5 and a much older boy showed me nude polaroids of his girlfriend.

I had a ridiculously supportive family. My Mom and Dad were both very loving and active in my life. We spent lots of time together and we talked all the time. So why did I feel compelled to hide those things from my parents?

I honestly haven’t been able to answer it yet, at least not completely. You can probably chalk some of it up to personality: I have a tendency not to want to talk about things until I figure them out. I also probably created some false expectations, like mom or dad might be upset that I was involved in this thing. Life is complicated, especially for a young brain.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this question, especially now that my kids are getting older. See, I want to create a home environment where my kids feel comfortable opening up about life: not just the good stuff, but the bad stuff, the confusing stuff—especially the confusing stuff.

I’ve always believed in the 80/20 approach to relationships. In other words, you need to spend 80% of your time hanging out and talking about relatively inconsequential stuff so that you build up enough trust so they feel comfortable talking about the other 20% that really matters.

At the end of the day, I know my children are individuals, and as such they’re going to have their own ideas about the world and they’re going to make their own decisions. Every day they get more and more independent, as they should, and maybe that’s the hardest part of all of this. But my desire, and frankly my job, is to help guide them, to prepare them for life, so I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to connect with them, to make asking questions and sharing experiences with us the most natural thing in our home.

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