What do we teach children?
photo credit: greg westfall.
Today’s article is inspired by Stacy Clafin following comments I made on one of her pages yesterday.
My grandfather passed away when I was very young. I didn’t really know him. The only memory I have of him is a mind picture of him lying in bed. After he died (I wasn’t taken to the funeral). I recall my parents and older siblings telling me that Grandpa had gone away in an aeroplane! Of course, this was confusing because I heard adults talking about the fact that Grandpa had died. I can even remember asking the question about what I was told and what I heard. It caused some embarrassment because nobody seemed to really know what to say.
Children are very matter of fact. Sure, children can grieve, but the also have the ability to quickly recover, unlike us adults. I sincerely believe that young children learn best with straight facts. Children can learn to be emotionally intelligent by understanding that it is OK to feel emotional pain.
I wonder that adults try to protect children because it has more to do with their own pain than that the assumed pain of the child. Let’s face it, we have all done that to a greater or lesser extent.
It is a tricky subject. Being factual with children is what I’m suggesting, but of course there are some aspects of life that children need some protection from, purely because they are not mature enough to understand. I guess the point is, children don’t necessarily need to know all the gory details, but they do need to know the truth. If we tell children lies, then they learn to lie.
This is a little different from the Tooth Fairly and Santa Claus. In my opinion, these are OK because they encourage children to use their imaginations in a healthy way. Children learn effectively from make believe stories and I think they understand the difference between make believe and reality.
As I frequently state, the answer is about balance (and also about common sense).
It was not until my late thirties that I was told I had a half brother. That was both interesting, but also disturbing. For a while I felt pretty insecure. The question in my mind was “What other secrets have been kept from me? I had some disturbing dreams around that time and quite a bit of anxiety, more so because my mother was taken ill with a stroke on the day we all met my half brother.
So many of us go through our lives seeking the truth. Most important of all is seeking the truth about our own lives. In many cases we don’t find those answers or we receive answers that are disappointing. Recovery comes from coming to terms with our reality.
With regard to children, we can give them factual reality. I have always taken my children to funerals. They were told the truth and understand loss. They also understand that it is OK to grieve.
Classic examples of dis-information that children receive: -
The death of a family member or friend.
The truth about sex in its natural sense.
The truth about the break up of parental relationships and the truth behind being placed in care.
That it is not OK to cry and that children must be brave. (If children are told not to cry, they become emotionally stunted, confused and express anger innapropriately.)
That it is OK to be happy and enjoy life in the moment, despite traumatic revelations.
What facts do you tell children?
What facts do you protect from them for their safety?
Is that protection more about your own pain and grief than what can be beneficial to the child?
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