What do you do when honesty might hurt your child? An eternal parental dilemma but it all depends on his age.

As a father and a parent, you will never want to hurt your child, but sometimes if you tell them things as they really are, they will get upset and the effects may even last for sometime. Occasionally a ‘white lie’ is acceptable if it is done to protect your child from something, particularly if they are not yet at an age when they can understand the full consequences of it. However, you should always try to be honest with your children and never lie to them on serious issues.

Sometimes it is very difficult to stick to this guideline, but remember that your children deserve you to treat them correctly. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is of your ‘white lie’, but your judgement of the situation will determine if it is the correct course of action. If your child is a toddler or under five and his grand mother passes away, you might tell him that ‘nanna has gone to a special place with the angels’.

If however he has been at primary school for a few years he will be starting to learn about the human life cycle and that we are born and we eventually die. You may make a judgement call in this instance and tell him the truth but couch it in more direct gentle terms like ‘nanna passed away peacefully in her sleep and has gone to heaven’. So how you communicate with your child will very definitely be relative to your child’s age and his ability to comprehend life events like this.

If however you do lie to him even on a subject as serious as this and he finds out, it will send the message that this is an acceptable form of behaviour. Remember, at all times your child will look up to you and copy your behaviour, so he will need you to handle a situation like this in the correct way. He will remember how you do this for many years to come.

How can you stay close to your Teenager as your relationship changes? It is a real challenge.

When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.

As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.

It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.

It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.

What is the most enjoyable period for you during your child’s growing up years?

When you have your first child, everything is brand new from when she is born to when she leaves home. You experience everything first with your eldest. But if you have more than one child, it is only then that you can then start to evaluate what period of your children’s lives is the most enjoyable for you as a Father.

For me, and many dads I have spoken to, this a very interesting question, as sometimes it appears that your child’s growing up years seem to go by all too quickly. All you can then do is look back and say “that was good”, or “I didn’t particularly like that”, without really appreciating it fully. So when do you really have a chance to look at which part of your child’s development is the most enjoyable experience for you?

You might think the joy of having a new born is the most enjoyable, as everything is new, and you are learning literally, every day. Or when your child becomes a Toddler. He is so sweet, apart from those ‘terrible two’s’ tantrums. But hey, they are not too frequent are they? Or it could be the Primary School years, pre-puberty, when you are the ‘apple of your child’s eye’. Then again is it the Teenage years? Probably not, as your child is changing so much physically and mentally, unless you love to see how she handles these challenges and still remains reasonable.

Then when they finish Secondary School and are officially adults, at least in age. Maybe you can start to discuss rationally with them, now they are going off to University or going out to work. Or is the final stage of childhood the most enjoyable for you, when they leave home, but still need you as an advisor or confidante?

When do you think the best period is then? I think it is actually all of them, each part of their growing up period is different, as each child is and therefore your child will react and respond to you in a different way at whatever stage of his life he is at. So you should make the most of whatever period your child is in and enjoy it to the full with him, even if you have to handle the odd sleepless night, sudden tantrum, or unexpected and unwarranted teenage explosion. Every part of their childhood is enjoyable, but like many things you live through in life, sometimes you don’t always realise it while it is happening.