I am very open with Rachel about everything in life, from life and death to sex and relationships and everything else she's interested in. I believe that information is empowering and that being able to talk reduces stress and worry.
However I have received accusations recently, from her teacher no less, about sharing so much information with Rachel. Her teacher feels that children should be shielded from the realities of life like cancer and death and heaven.
Whilst talking to friends about the whole issue I have realised that there are two camps with very little middle ground. There are those who believe in not telling their kids about the 'big stuff' until there's absolutely no other choice; and those who are very open with their kids.
It's made me think about why I am so open with Rachel; and these are my conclusions.
1. Emotional reasons
Rachel is and always has been extremely empathic; she picks up on my emotions before I'm aware I'm leaking them. I believe that telling her facts and reassuring her about them helps her know what's going on and therefore that she doesn't need to worry. A lot of this comes from the fact that I worry much more about the unknown than the known.
2. Personality reasons
Rachel has asked why since she could talk. She is interested in decisions, facts, results and processes. Add to this the fact that she is not a nervous child and you can see that providing her with information helps put her at ease. I give her basic information and expand as necessary until she seems satisfied.
3. Lifestyle reasons
I live my life very publicly and reach out for support when I need it. Since I spend a lot of time with her this means there is a good chance she could over hear things; I did this many times as an child and it worried me.
4. Developmental reasons
I would like to keep Rachel a child through her childhood, but as parents we also need to prepare them for life. By allowing her to encounter the big issues I am helping her establish ways of dealing with them which will stand her in good stead.
5. Common sense reasons
If you think your kids don't know when there's something worrying you or when you're not ill then please let me shine some light on the situation - kids pick up on the subtlest of changes in their surroundings and in those they love - our job is to help them understand and accept those changes.
So yes, Rachel knows she has brothers in heaven and she happily talks about them playing football. Yes, she knows that not all children are born easily and Therefore how special life is. And yes, she knows that children in the world die from lack of food, water or medicines. And yes, she knows that she's a lucky girl living a life of luxury compared to most.
You can talk to Rachel about birth, death, disease, heaven, God, prayer, Jesus, miracles, television or moshi monsters and have a perfectly good conversation about any of them. She is not afraid to ask me information, she's not afraid to hear what I might say and she will hopefully be better able to cope with all life throws at her as a result.
My big question remains; how does not talking to your kids about the big stuff help them get ready for it?