Sharing family secrets: my story

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Relatives, Development/Milestones: Babies

Earlier this week Irene Nam wondered how to handle some family history with her boys. My own family is chock full of painful history and estranged relationships, although no secrets.

In therapy I did a little discussing of how to tell my children, mainly my very intuitive daughter, where my father is. At three she put together that her father has a mother and a father but I only have a mother. I told her I had a father but he died when I was a teenager. She asked nothing further but did become obsessed with the cemetery we pass throughout the day.

That's the approach I've taken, I answer just the questions she asks without giving too much detail because it's my belief children will ask what they are ready to hear.A year or so later she asked how he died and though I'm trying to be as transparent as possible, I've had trouble telling her he shot himself. So for now we've gone with the 'accident' story but I continue to set the stage for the truth at some later date.

I tell her the good stories I have about my father but I've made it clear he was not a happy man and I did not have the same type of father she has, so that one day when I'm ready to share the story of how he died, she won't be completely surprised to hear the news..

I've seen so many examples of how vague references to family history and not acknowledging the painful past can cause more damage. I absolutely believe that talking about painful history takes away its power. I know one family in particular where so much more damage has been done trying to pretend the bad things didn't happen.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.