Columnist Jenny McCarthy discusses approaching tough subjects with children
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, a discussion among my friends came up. We are all parents of elementary school-aged children. Between the five of us, opinions varied on whether or not we should share the news of the event and, if so, how much information we should disclose. One topic led to the next and soon we were talking about drugs, sex, video games and everything else parents try to shield their kids from hearing or seeing. What IS the best policy to address these touchy topics? Should we wait until there is an interest and/or exposure or introduce them before they find out from an unreliable source?
— Shari from Broomfield, CO
Jenny says: I struggle with this, too. It is a constant balancing act between educating a child and unnecessarily sharing subjects beyond their years. The media portrays drinking alcohol as fun. Images in magazines promote sex. Music popularizes drug use. Like it or not, children are exposed to adult behaviors at an increasingly early age. Parenting a child in this day and age is really, really hard. Honestly, I don’t know how we do it!
With my son, I try to use spontaneous situations as teachable moments. I stick to the facts and talk a little bit at a time, or sometimes I’ll throw out a hypothetical situation just to see how he responds. Often I go back and forth about what is age-appropriate and whether or not too much information is a good thing or a bad thing. When in doubt, I err on the side of less is more, and, even though there are times when I want to elaborate, I remind myself I don’t have to fit all of the information in just one conversation. It is important to remember each child is unique and developmental ages and experiences should always be taken into consideration when difficult topics are approached.
Send questions to Askjenny@suntimes.com