Don't be fooled by little ears — though they be small, they be fierce. All I have to do is whisper the word "candy" and my kids will come running from 100 yards away. The same goes for those little brains rattling around in those cute little noggins your kids are sporting. Their gears are always turning, and the bits of information they pick up from overhearing you talk can have some pretty serious results. Even what seems like everyday chats can be conversations that you don't realize hurt your kids.
It may seem difficult to restrict all adult topics to a time when they kids aren't around to overhear, but it's beneficially to keep certain subject matter out of a child's earshot. As psychologist Marlin S. Potash told Women's Day magazine, "you shouldn't have adult conversations when your kids are around and then try to convince yourself that they're not listening or don't understand." Although kids may not grasp all the details of the situation, they can pick up on the vibe that something is wrong. Furthermore, they may allow their imagination to fill in the blanks of the parts they do not understand. This is a slippery slope that can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress in little ones.
The effects of your adult talks on young ears have more impact than you realize, so make sure to avoid these conversations you don't realize are hurting your kids until your babies aren't around.
1. Severe Weather Concerns
My youngest son became extremely upset when he overheard adults talking about a possible tornado coming through on Christmas Eve. Ditto that for thunderstorms and lightening on any given night. According to Mayo Clinic, even though severe weather may frighten kids, they want to understand what's happening — so you should explain storms to kids matter-of-factly and answer their questions as straightforward as possible.
2. Money Problems
Talking — even jokingly — about being short on money can cause a lot of worry for little ones who don't understand the way finances work. As Women's Day pointed out, kids can interpret money concerns as more serious than they may be. Conversations about family finances should be kept between adults, when little ears aren't listening.
3. Grown Up Arguments
It can be scary for kids to see and hear adults fight. Name calling and hurtful statements exchanged between the people they rely on to keep them safe can threaten a child's sense of security and cause stress, according to Parenting. Arguments are going to happen, so following up with your kids and reassuring them that even when adults fight, they work out and move on will give you little one a better understanding of the situation they witnessed.
4. Home Safety Threats
Even something as routine as replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors could signal a wave of panic in you child. They may begin to worry that the house will burn down and they will not know how to stay safe. Talking about what to do if there is a fire in your home is a conversation the kids should always be included on — not one they hear grown ups discussing. Try using sites like Sparky The Fire Dog, which help kids to understand fire safety in an age appropriate way.
5. Mature News Stories
Discussing current events and topics with heavy content can be confusing for kids to overhear. According to Kids Health, children can image the event happening to them, even if the context of the event has nothing to do with them. For example, if you are discussing a subway bombing in another country, your child may be fearful of using your city's public transportation.
6. Negative Self-Talk
It's one thing to give yourself a hard time in your own mind when you went to the store and came back with nothing on your list, but using negative self-talk in front of kids will influence the way they use self-talk as well. As Psych Central pointed out, children use the self-talk modeled by their caregivers. This means all those put downs you hurl at yourself under your breath will be the same things your child says when they become frustrated.
7. Concerns For Their Safety
Every parent is concerned for their child's safety, but when parents fixate on rare and intense events, it can lead to a lack of resilience in children, according to NPR. Although the typical safety worries parents have for their children are ones that will likely never happen, children start to fear these incidents and perceive the world as a scary place to be, rather than build the skills to feel confident and safe.