Many adults I have met seem to think that you can’t talk to children about certain subjects. Topics that are more “adult” than the normal Peppa Pig, homework or Paw Patrol. I have had numerous conversations with adults saying “you can’t discuss that with children, they don’t understand, it’s too grown up”.
Take death, for instance. You can’t possibly tell a child that their beloved hamster has gone to the great wheel in the sky or that the goldfish is swimming down the great white pipe to goldfishy heaven. It is too traumatic for them.
Abuse is another one – you can’t talk about that. It isn’t nice/decent/the done thing.
Periods – discussing menstruation simply isn’t British!
Well to all you naysayers I am calling you out because you can! The only thing stopping you having a conversation about things like these are the limitations you put upon yourself, the discomfort you may feel having these conversations.
When my daughter was about 4 years old her younger brothers got into the cupboard in the bathroom and basically trashed ALL of my sanitary items. The bathroom looked like an avalanche of cotton, string, paper, sticky pads – the lot! I went ever so slightly bonkers at them (in the hope that they would never do it again) and sent them to bed. My daughter then asked me the question…..”Mummy, what were those things?” and my first response to her was that she didn’t need to know, that it was nothing to do with her and she would find out when she was older and then I paused, thought and sat upon the end of her bed. I told her that, most ladies, when they grow older, have a time each month when their body has a clean out and those items were what I used to keep me clean when my body does that. She was satisfied with that answer and that was the end of my interrogation. I was also happy that I had laid a basic level of understanding for when that eventuality comes about. I have since had a more in depth conversation with her about what to expect so that she isn’t afraid the first time she wipes blood as she is now 10. I don’t want her to think she can’t come and talk to me or her dad about it. I tried to break the taboo.
I have also had the conversation with all three of my older children about keeping their private parts private. They are not for other people to touch – either inside or outside of clothing – and if anyone tries to encourage them to allow them to be touched or to touch that other person that they come to me straight away and we will sort it out together. That it is wrong for someone else to do that until my children are grown up and of a legal age. If I had known that simple fact when I was a child it may have saved me years of torment because I would have known that what my abuser was doing wasn’t acceptable. I could have reached out for help before I had been manipulated into believing I was a prostitute because he gave me chocolate or a pound. I hope I have laid the seed of awareness in case someone tries to do to them what happened to me.
Death is another subject I have seen avoided – almost like the plague – with children being lied to or “fluffied up” about. We are uncomfortable talking to someone who has lost a loved one and to discuss it with a child is simply a step too far. We almost “cross the road” to avoid talking to the relative of someone who has died – especially if the deceased is a child.
I run a cub pack and one of my Cub’s grandparents was very poorly, not expected to last much longer and the mother wanted some help for her child so I did some research. I read that children need to be spoken to with clear words. Adults have a tendancy to cotton wool the truth and that makes it blurry for a child. Telling a young person that “we have lost (name)” often confuses the child and they then start looking for them causing stresses when they can’t be found or saying they have gone up to heaven whilst pointing upwards can make the young person think they are on a plane or flying with birds or similar.
I duly planned the meeting for the following week where we could support anyone who may have needed it when – BAM – we were hit by news of the bombs in Paris and I received information being sent out by our Scout Association on how we could help our young people understand a little of what was going on with the world.
Our meeting was two days later and we used the John Lewis “Man on the Moon” advert to discuss loneliness and old age and used that to lead onto death and how it was ok to be sad, it was ok to miss people, it was ok to cry. We moved onto the news about the bombings and said that they would hear about it as grown ups often “talk over” children – in the playground, at the shops, in the street – and we think that children aren’t listening but they are – and if we are scared about what is going on how do you think our children feel?
I was immensely proud of my Cubs that night as they were so on the ball and astute with the discussion. i wanted to pick the whole pack up and take them to talk to our Prime Minister about a different way of thinking rather than just going over and bombing someone back as a response. I wanted someone to hear my wonderful group of young people who were so clear with their thinking and so grown up for 8, 9 and 10 year olds. I told them that it was ok to ask questions, I reassured them that things like those attrocities were making news because they were so rare in the grand scheme of things, I said it was ok to be afraid, to worry (if it is ok for an adult then why not for a child?). I told them that if the adults they were asking felt they couldn’t talk about it then they could come and talk to us as leaders because we are “detached” from the child.
I guess what I am rambling on about tonight is that you can have any conversation, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may be for us, with a child. We just need to temper our language and use age-appropriate words and phrases because, if we don’t, if we lie to them or tell them it isn’t important or right or the done thing we could be imposing the taboos of those subjects on our children without even realising it.
How can a child learn to deal with death if we don’t give them the chance? How can we protect our children if they don’t realise that what is happening to them is wrong and certainly NOT their fault? How can our children grow up without limitations if we don’t let them learn about the world?
Our children are awesome and we need to nurture that.