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"too early" information - is it that bad?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

i am curious what you think.


i was brought up to give children the infor they asked because they were too young. 


yet i defied that. it felt right to me answering those questions - about sex, death, capitol punishment between teh ages of 2 to 4. my mom was absolutely SHOCKED. she was shocked that i even answered questions about the different holocausts at 5 and the atom bomb at 7. 


now that dd is 9 i find she is going thru a second 'emotionally protection' stage. introducing her now to new stuff is hard. meaning stuff that is deemed proper for her age. 


yet the stuff she already knows is fine. that was done when she was ready for the facts, but not for the emotional aspect of it. she focused on the facts - not the horribleness of it. for instance she could talk about what one does with the body and what i want done to mine at 4, but now she cant even bring it up. she has reached the emotional understanding stage and she finds it hard discussing things like that. 


right now she is waaaay too sensitive. we cant talk about her gpa at dinner whom she lost 4 years ago coz she stops eating and goes lays in bed and cant stop the sobs wracking her body. 


but things she has been exposed to she can handle well now. even the holocausts. 



post #2 of 17

I'm a little confused by your post, but I think I understand the gist.


DH and I have raised DD very openly, giving age appropriate info as requested, not hiding death, etc. By the age of 4 she knew about sex and all about birth (more than my own mother it turns out) and understood what death was. My mother was horrified too.


Now she is almost 8 and she is going through yet another growth period. The emotions of it all are hitting her in an age appropriate way IMO. She is able to think and talk about sex and the broader issues in a way that a 4 year old just can't. So now when we talk about it, we are talking about thoughts and feelings, not so much where a baby comes from. We talk about self respect and boundaries, about ways that people use sex for things other than making babies. We talk about peer pressure and role play how to handle different situations.


My son was diagnosed with leukemia last year. (He's doing very well today!) We did not hide the scary truth from her. She was aware that he could die. I caught a lot of flack for that from my parents, who felt we should have sheltered her from that. But how else do you explain a month in the hospital, a week in ICU, terrified Mommy and Daddy and 3 years of drugs and doctors appointments? Turns out, the hospital staff that worked with her said we were doing perfect and explaining things well and did not discourage us at all from being honest and age appropriate in our explanations. We worked through our feelings, our fears, our worries as a family and it has been very healing. It brought us all closer. I just can't imagine hiding everything from her, especially if things had not worked out well.

post #3 of 17

I am very much a fan of answering children's questions when they ask them (in an age-appropriate way of course). I guess the questions change as they change with age, education and life experiences. I would even think it's ok for you to raise your daughter's grandfather in conversation (naturally, not in a forced way) even if it does cause her to cry. It seems to me that that is part of the grieving process for her. If people are at pains to avoid mentioning him even if it feels natural for them to do so then a) it prevents them from meeting their need to remember him in day-to-day life and b) it doesn't allow your daughter to express her strong feelings about her loss.

post #4 of 17

I believe in answering a child's questions in an honest, age appropriate way. But i have two little ones who will be four in Jan and in Feb, and frankly i can't imagine a situation for us where something like the holocaust or capital punishment would even come up. I dont see the benefit in exposing a toddler or preschool age child to that information unless it somehow directly related to our current situation/lives (such as the previous poster whose other child was fighting cancer, in that situation of course you would need to explain...) One of my boys heard from a classmate that a "stranger could cut off your head!" (the teacher was trying to explain why they couldnt open certain school doors for strangers, that she wouldnt want a stranger to come in and hurt them and thats when little classmate piped up with his idea of how a stranger could hurt you)....my son was kind of upset about that and mention it several times. I dont want him left with the idea that "strangers cut off kids heads" even though that CAN and DOES happen...why would i want him to feel unsafe in his world? My boys have asked "what do girls have" since they know they have a penis, but have yet to ask about babies (we never see pg women so this hasnt come up.)


Meemee, i'd be interested to know how those conversations went when your child was as young as two.

post #5 of 17
I answer all questions. ALL! And they do to. We talk about sex, friends, death, wars, you name it we talk about it. Heck my 8 year will sit through a political discussion and ask questions. Sometimes silly ones sometimes serious ones. I'm good with that.
post #6 of 17

Well, I believe there is a difference between the truth and "cold, hard facts" when it comes to young children.

I think, above all, young children need to feel safe and secure in the world.

They might ask tough questions, but I don't believe they require sophisticated, adult answers.

For example, if my preschooler were to ask me about war, my adult brain might conjure up images of bloodshed, weapons, and death...but that's not appropriate to share with someone so small and vulnerable. I might give an answer like, "well, sometimes war happens when two countries can't agree on a solution." Is it the truth? Yes. Is it the "cold, hard truth?" No.



post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post

frankly i can't imagine a situation for us where something like the holocaust or capital punishment would even come up. 

you'd be surprised. 


at 2 our newly adopted cat miscarried. she just bled and absorbed the babies. dd was fascinated by that proceess and spun all these gory stories to figure out what happened to the babies. she had heard stories of my dad and brother and sometimes i'd put a plate setting for them and invite them to join us at our meal and we'd have a super long meal of me crying and telling stories and laughing. it was v. cathartic for me. 


her conversations/questions over death and sex and birth started simple and small and as she got older (she is a thinker) the questions got more complicated. by 3 she was full on about questions on death. when i just picked up the dead sparrow and threw it in the trash she asked me 'mom when i die will you also throw me in the trash' i picked it up and gave it a proper burial. 


at 4 she was watching a ninja turtles episode. she had a 103 temperature and was laying on me watching. suddenly she turns to me and says 'if we do what the bad guy does then why are we a hero? do we have to kill him? why is that killing good? killing is killing. do we do that too? do we kill our bad guys too mama? why does it have to be that way? cant we do it differently? 


at 5 i introduced the holocaust thru the movie 'the boy with the stripped pajamas'. dd was going with me to events where she was hearing about native american holocaust in pieces and parts. so i wanted to introduce the idea to her in a gentle manner instead of full on (which we did later as we watched rabbit proof fence a few months ago). i focused on the facts. this is what happened without going any deeper. she got the human aspect from the movie. today i would not show her this movie at this point. she is v. v. v. sensitive to any suffering now. . . 


post #8 of 17

I agree with FrogAutumn.  My dd is the same age as your dd and is very sensitive.  Dh is Armenian and all but one person (his grandmother) in his family were murdered in the Armenian genocide by the Turks.  We've talked about family history and obviously they have a personal connection to holocaust.  Still, I think there can be TMI at an early age.  I am confident that if I had told dd at a young age, the brutal truths of what happened, she would be insecure at best or worse, traumatized.  We discuss death and have done from the time she first had a grasp of the concept at about 3 years old.  However, giving information in age-appropriate context is key, IMO.  For example, at 3, I would never have explained decomposition, worms, bugs, returning to the earth, etc. but eventually she became emotionally mature enough to be inquisitive about what happens to our bodies and be OK with the concept.  She *asked* before she was ready for the complete answer, though.   I followed her emotional need to supply the information on a "need to know" basis.  Not necessarily her curiosity need.  Never lying, just not giving the whole picture.  These days, at 9.5, few things are off limits.  As you know, my mother is dying and she is actually showing great maturity in this and is being an emotional support to me as much as I am to her.  In short... yes, I think that giving the brutal facts too early is a bad thing for most kids.  They need to be eased into the "realities" of life.  I also think that certain subjects will be more sensitive than others and will change over time (as hormonal changes occur and emotions become more difficult to predict and control).

post #9 of 17
I answer questions as asked no matter at what age they're asked. The Holocaust came up earlier than I expected, when someone compared something to a concentration camp, so she asked what a concentration camp was.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

perhaps i am asking 'the choir'. i am surrounded by people who are shocked by the things i talk to dd about. even if the kids asked they tell them they are too young to ask the question. i remember my mom telling me this too.


yeah absolutely 'need to know' is important. but its the what is 'age appropriate' that is in question here.


but i find i can actually introduce certain things without a direct answer. so if my dd asked me about concentration camps i could just call it a prison from olden days or i could go into the whole hitler thing. (i am just using this as an example as it is a more socially unacceptable thing to tell a 5 year old).


the reason i bring this up is coz there was a discussion (brought up by other students) about racism in dd's 4th grade class. the teacher made it a point to come talk to me coz she was v. impressed with dd's take on racism. and the only way dd could have had that perspective is coz of her talks with gpa and his experiences when she was 4. obviously he didnt go into gory details but he definitely pointed out the divide.


i have faced the same with conservation issues and saving water issues.

post #11 of 17

I've thought a lot about this question and have sort of swung back and forth in the way I deal with giving my kids information.  I live in a really academic area.  My friends are all really well educated and a lot of them are academics professionally.  I've been most comfortable in the past meeting the world on those terms.  When I first became a mother , I was really gung-ho about being open and honest with my kids.  Correct terminology for body parts, planning to play the 'Santa' thing as a nice little tradition that parents do for their kids, encouraging questions about things that I found politically pressing like conservation.


But our path as the kids grew a bit lead us to homeschool and led us to Waldorf.  Steiner has pretty strong views about what children ought to be exposed to.  He feels that 'reason' answers rather than technical ones will fill their souls early in life so that they are ready later for the details.  So, when a child asks "Why does the sun come up?", we should answer, "To keep us warm and to make the good plants grow".  He also teaches that for a child under 7, it's important to teach that the world is good.  Again, not to trick them, but to build their inner trust so that they can come, in time, to meet evils from a place of sureness.


So, all of that is pretty much opposite what I was doing and what I intended to do.  But it kind of resonated for me.  It encouraged me to see my kids as children and not as little adults.  It reminded me that the way their brains work is not the way my adult brain works; that fears are bigger and I have a responsibility to protect them.


I'm not really sure which way is right, I'm conflicted between wanting to protect my children and let them grow without ugliness, to build their inner strengths in a sheltered place, and wanting for them to be righteous and informed and safe in the way that information can make one safe.


At the moment, I feel that maybe it's less about what kind of information you are giving your child and more about the intent with which the information in given.  I just tried to come up with an example of this and failed miserably, so I don't know that I can really explain that point of view.  I feel that with information about things that fall under the category of 'advanced' or 'too adult', our own emotional connection to those things is what will come across as the most 'real' to the child and we should take that into account.


Anyway, that's not really an answer, is it?  I'm glad you brought it up, though, Meemee, as it's been on my mind.

post #12 of 17
Answering them with your own view on things can be hard to break. Like when my kids asked about a friend her bottle fed her baby. I actually said, "it's fine if you don't care about the babies health." What kind of person am I? I had to go back and say that we have choices and we choose the right things for ourselves. Formula fed babies are healthy too. And she chose to formula feed because she feels it's the right thing for her to do.
post #13 of 17

The Waldorf explanation on why the sun comes up is interesting. I'm not sure it really answers the question.


I have found it to be a tricky balance between answering with facts and answering the actual intent behind the question. Sometimes my kids are asking a question to find out how something works but other times my kids are asking for a more philosophical answer so I give them that. I can usually tell when they are being philosophical because when I start getting all sciencey they interrupt me and say, "But wwwwwwwhy?" Then I tend to help them reframe the question to help them get the info they are seeking.


post #14 of 17

I believe in answering questions when they come up, but I try to answer just the question without going deeply into detail.  I also don't go out of my way to expose my dd to topics like the holocaust or the atrocities that occur during a war.  I don't go out of my way to avoid them nor do I make her turn off the radio when she says she would like to listen to a story I would otherwise wait to read online, but I don't see any value in introducing these kinds of topics in young children. 


Maybe your dd is just at a point where she needs time to process what she has already learned about the tough things that happen in the world.  I don't think it means she won't be able to come back to these topics and learn about them in a deeper way when they are introduced again in school, she may just need a break from them.  Even as an adult I still sometimes get overwhelmed by sad things that happen to other people (even if it is just something from tv) and I have to step back and take a break.  I think it is important to help children learn when that is happening to them, that it is normal, and how to proceed once they realize what is going on.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

One_Girl I think its more of a growing awareness of the world. and she is truly understanding the meaning behind the happenings around us including her. she is just beside herself with sorrow if she feels she has hurt me or somehow her actions affected me in a negative way. i have to point out and correct her more these days to save her from herself. 


however just the fact she has knowledge from before is making her handle some stuff better than some of the other kids who are just learning it for the first time. 


i think 7-8 was the consciousness developing phase. and at 9 i see her going even more deeply into that. 


does she need more space? i am not sure. she seems to be devouring info. and getting ready to do the indian missions she has to do for her school project through indian eyes rather than thru non indian eyes. she is willing to 'fail' her project if the teacher doesnt approve but she refused to budge on her stance. 

post #16 of 17

We will answer ALL questions honestly! No sugar coating!


post #17 of 17

There are very few topics that I would worry about introducing "too early."  It always seems odd to me when people assume that a topic that would be disturbing to a 10 year old would be even more disturbing to a 7 year old and absolutely traumatic for a 3 year old.  I don't think it really works that way.  Very young kids (even very bright and thoughtful ones) don't think about things in great depth, don't care all that much about other people, and are much more concerned about what's happening to them right now than about anything that may happen in the future or that happened to someone else long ago.  They do tend to have idiosyncratic fears about things that don't scare us, but that doesn't mean they'll be even more scared of the things that do scare us.  (At around 2.5, I remember my DD bursting into tears when I told her a story I thought she would find funny, about how I once drove a truck into a puddle that turned out to be a lot deeper than I thought, and it got stuck and water started coming through the floorboards.  She was much less upset about learning, around the same age, that everyone dies and that dead people rot and turn into dirt.)


My natural impulse is not only to answer everything, but also to volunteer quite a bit of information that hasn't been asked for.  I can't ever imagine answering the question, "Why does the sun rise?" with anything other than, "It only looks like it's rising.  The earth is always spinning, and when our part of it turns toward the sun, it makes it look like the sun is coming up."  I remember one time when my DD was around 3.5 or 4, she asked if everyone would die when the sun went out.  (She already knew that would happen someday, and that we would be dead long before that.)  I said they would unless people had already gone extinct before that, and she asked for some examples of ways people might go extinct.  So I launched into a list of all the ways I could think of - nuclear war, starvation due to overpopulation, poisoning from harmful chemicals, etc.  Partway through that, it occurred to me that it might not be the most appropriate subject for conversation.  But she was fine with it.  That's the approach my kids have been raised with.  I can't say for sure whether it's been better for them than a more sheltering approach, but I can say that it doesn't seem to have harmed them.  They don't tend to be anxious at all.  They seem to feel safe and feel that the world is a good place. 

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