The Vital Nature of Transparency
The family that came for Revive’s family camp could not have anticipated the change that would begin with just one week of time, fun and transparency. The importance of transparency cannot be overstated when it comes to family connection and togetherness.
Transparency is a delicate topic and can strike fear into the hearts of adults. Yet it is vital and must be encouraged, guarded and protected within our homes. For me becoming transparent required pursuing healing in my own heart because prior to this there were just too many sensitive spots that led to pain that people could trigger in me without meaning anything. I had a strong sense that I needed to protect myself, which of course meant I could share little or nothing about my real life, thoughts or feelings. Unfortunately this is the position I find far too many kids in today with their parents and siblings.
Sometimes I find kids sharing small things that are bothering them just to keep their parents at arms length from their true feelings about their family, life, beliefs and decisions. When kids are unwilling to share their real thoughts, ideas and feelings the sense of being a close family is lost.
If we desire to raise emotionally aware kids, we need to foster transparency on an emotional level. Kids need to learn to decipher and share their feelings in healthy and constructive ways. This leads to better communication, less conflict and defensiveness as they grow older. The development of these skills is not possible when parents minimize or dismiss their feelings as opposed to helping them decipher, understand, and share those feelings. Some may fear that this will lead to their feelings ruling them and the house but I have not found that to be true.
When I coach families I find that suppressed hurts and negative feelings about themselves carried deep within are ruling them in unconscious ways. One father I coached who opened his heart to this reality said to me, I cannot believe all I was missing and how much the pain from my past was impacting my thoughts, reactions, and perspective of my family. Did it mean he had to turn and face painful things within? Yes. Yet, it brought new meaning, purpose and joy to his life and that of his family.
Emotional transparency is vital in raising kids.
When they understand us they remain connected and their inherent desire to please us remains intact. When this is the case kids make better decisions in every area of their life. When the desire to please wanes or is squashed the opposite is a virtual certainty.
We need to be open with our feelings in order to encourage our kids to do the same. While focusing on behavior leads to defensiveness and conflict, sharing, listening and helping our kids share the feelings underneath their frustration, hurt or anger is essential. This leads to emotionally aware, discerning and wise children that are not ruled by hidden emotions from within.
Our ability to ask questions and help them discern the different emotions they are experiencing will enable them to process and express them in healthy constructive ways rather than bottling them and erupting. When this type of communication happens within a family it leads to deeper understanding of one another, better relationships and a family unit that anchors our kids in a fast paced, painful world. As the anchor in our kids’ lives Deedee and I have found that they choose to avoid the things we fear because they do not fear us or need to fill the void of not feeling loved and accepted by their parents with other things.
This type of transparency is powerful.
In my coaching of both marriages and families I see it constantly. People come frustrated, hurt and interact on a surface level when the focus is on behavior, facts and outcomes. As we attempt to address their issues with one another this focus leads to debates because their perspectives are different and they are triggered and hurt by different things. As I help them discern the feelings underneath their frustration, hurt or anger and share those feelings with each other both parties begin to understand each other often for the first time. This helps them understand the breakdown and often see for the first time their part in causing it, bringing about resolution and emotional re-connection.
I find many adults like myself have a hard time understanding the feelings we encounter within because our families did not communicate on an emotional level and may have dismissed or minimized our feelings as irrelevant. In coaching I often help parents discern, identify and share their deeper feelings with each other and their kids, dramatically changing the family dynamic as they come to understand each other and why they have been frustrated, defensive or hurt.
To foster emotional transparency we need to rethink many of the long held paradigms of parent child interaction and relationships. One of the crystallizing moments for the family at family camp came when the daughter who was the best behaved and most compliant child shared with her mom how her mom’s reactions impacted her. She shared how she felt when her mom got upset and frustrated when she accidently spilled her milk and how it made her feel like she had to be perfect. Mistakes were not allowed and she was frustrated and hurt her because no matter how hard she tried, she was never good enough.
The mom later shared with me that she cannot figure out now why she believed coming down on her daughter for mistakes was good parenting and why she did not see that her daughter was feeling badly about her mistake and needed a hug. She now knows that this shut down her daughter’s emotional transparency and helped lead to her bottling so much frustration and hurt inside.
Emotional transparency by all parties allows us to understand each other, stay connected and to resolve miscommunication and issues without the battle of who said what and what happened.
Transparency in God’s Family
Two aspects of our participation in the family of God come to mind. First is transparency with respect to God and, second, transparency within our physical and spiritual family.
Our heavenly Father knows us inside and out from the start. While humbling, I am thankful for how the psalmist puts it in Psalm 103:13,14. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear (revere) him. For he knows our frame (our frailty); he remembers that we are dust.” While this reveals a tenderness toward us as his children he still expects us to be transparent with him. Paul writes in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word used for confess means “to say the same thing”. In other words, to agree and admit that we fell short of his standard. But in that confession there is forgiveness and cleansing, or full restoration of the relationship. This works in a family as we come to agreement of wrongs done to one another.
In our relationship as family members and members of God’s family were instructed by Paul in James 5:16 to “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” When we agree with one another on a wrong done and, in humility, bring each other to God in prayer, relational healing is a result.
In conclusion, remember the 5 Ts of Family Connection:
- Togetherness – the Goal we strive for
- Trust – the Ground we build on
- Talk – The Gateway to healthy interaction
- Time – the requirement for Growth in our relationships
- Transparency – the element that renders that relationship Genuine
If you’re looking for help developing an emotionally transparent home, begin by experiencing our free online Influential Parenting Academy and consider Revive’s family camp.