Saturday, 22 November 2008

Telling Children the Truth

I have often thought about what we tell our children about the events that surround them in the big bad old world and to what extent we can protect them and how honest we should be with them. The matter came to the fore again this week when lady lady asked me “Mummy what happened to Baby P?”

Baby P is the name given by the media to the poor child tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend and which has really elicited an emotive response from the public.

I was surprised in the first place, because I wondered where she has picked this up – we don’t have a telly and she can’t read a newspaper. When I asked her, she told me she heard me say it to her aunty (I can vaguely recall an outraged conversation with me ranting somewhat). I believe in being truthful to children but balancing this with what is approprite for their age. In the end I explained that Baby P was a little boy that died and is now in heaven with Allah (SWT) – I am deeply grateful she did not ask me how he died.

It was not that long ago, that the sad case of the missing Madeline McCann was in all of the newspapers, this time the picture of her pretty face was everywhere and I suspect most children were aware of her. I remember Little Lady asking about Madeline and trying to explain that she had gotten lost and no-one knew where and that her parents were looking for her. I know it bothered her, but was also something that was very distant from her every-day life and only at the periphery of her awareness.

All this reminded me of a study I read about recently which found that children suffered anxiety about modern life and all that goes with it: the environment, poverty, terrorism and general fear from what they pick up on in the news. This saddens me, I remember growing up in East London with my extended family with our big garden full of straberries and “my” pear tree, blissfully unaware of the big bad world and thick as a brick to go with it. I have always hoped to emulate this environment for my children, but seem to have only limited success against the inpinging of the information-overload world we live in. It’s ironic, the study also indicated that parents harked back to the “golden age” of their own childhoods which wasn’t always accurate – i.e. selective memory and airbrushing of those bits they didn’t like. That’s a point, I did get bullied in junior school and seem not to think too much about that.

In any case, it’s not an easy balance – being truthful with being careful not to scare your children. I guess the cushion is lots of unconditional love and affection and our children’s assumption that their parents will always take care of them. Little Man is convinced that Dad is the strongest man in the whole world alhamdulillah.

Children who lie often have parents who lie, and very quickly youngsters learn from their example…If you aren't honest with them, don't expect them to respond with honesty. ~Teaching Kids toTell The Truth - Harold J. Sala

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