To protect them or to tell them the harsh realities of life
It’s around the age of four and five that they’ll start asking ‘why?’ to everything and from six onwards I expect to be hearing the counterpoint to everything I say.
If there’s been a death, a divorce or some natural or man-made disaster then you probably will have to explain why such and such a person is no longer around. But even then some parents will still avoid telling the child, it’s quite understandable after all, we may not be ready ourselves to talk about it. If we haven’t come to terms with the loss it’s very hard to accept that such an event happened much less explain the whys and wherefores to a child.
In terms of explaining death
So when is the right time to explain to them the realities of life?
Me, personally I take the approach that you only have your childhood once. When you are an adult this terrible thing called responsibility comes along.
Yes you can still have fun, absolutely, there’s lots of fun you can have and still fulfill all your responsibilities. But when you are a child you are absolutely free and now is the time to explore and learn. I think explaining things like death, disease, divorce, war, terrorism etc. should be kept away untill the child has a good understanding of all the positive things in the world, like love, happiness, sharing, education etc. There’s various pieces of reseach that say a child’s personality is fully formed in the first five years of thier life, unless you are forced into a situation where you have to explain the negative aspects of life to your child I think it’s better to empower them and set their attitude to be one of positvitiy. Sure enough once they enter higher schools, they will be taught rigidity and conformity, but untill then should we as parents shouldn’t stiffle thier positive development?
Shouldn’t we prepare our children for the harsh realities of life?
Recently I was explaining the concept of not wasting water and food, i.e. not to keep the tap on for ages, not to throw food and water on the floor. I explained that there are some children in the world who don’t have water or even food. I said that if we’re lucky enough to have water then we shouldn’t waste it as they’d be a lot of children in the world who would be happy for a fraction of what we are wasting. I contemplated what to do if my boy didn’t heed my advice and continued wasting water, whether I should show footage of famine to explain the point that we are very lucky to be living here in the ‘abundant’ West. Luckily enough I didn’t need to take that step. But would I have done it?
I did recently after much trying to persuade my boy to either brush his teeth properly or let me brush his teeth for him have to resort to showing him what happens to people who don’t brush thier teeth properly. There were lots of gruesome videos for this, I picked the least alarming one (it’s still pretty alarming) and the one that showed the science of it and how to redeem the situation. I did and still do feel bad for having done that, but now either he brushes his teeth properly or lets me brush his teeth for him – there’s probably some clever name for this, like neo-post-classic-ethics-theory (if not I copyright it).
Thanks so much for reading, let me know your thoughts, whether you’ve had to do this and how you broached the subject.