By Lisa Witherspoon, author of The Golden Spoons
When you have kids, you know that conversations about some heavy topics are in your future. You know you’ll have to the the talk and you assume other issues will arise. When they are babies, though, that future and those conversations seem far, far away.
My oldest is 10 and, lately, it seems those heavy conversations have been happening a little too frequently. We have covered several topics that I wasn’t quite ready to discuss with her. However, circumstances and her questions have made them unavoidable. These conversations have made me begin to wonder if these conversations are “normal” for a 10 year old?? They’ve made me wonder if she is ready to handle the content?? They’ve made me wonder if other kids her age are having similar conversations and if today’s generation of kids really is growing up too fast??
So, here are some of the conversations we’ve had:
1) Puberty – I seriously don’t remember girls “developing” so early when I was 10. I certainly didn’t. However, research shows that girls can start their periods as early as age 8!!! (Take a deep breath – the average actual age is 12). I wanted to make sure she was prepared “just in case,” so we had a discussion about what it means to have a period and what else might be happening to her body in the not-so-distant future. As she entered 5th grade last fall, questions started to arise about girls wearing bras and developing differently. So, we reviewed the discussion and I think she understands the gist of it all – but, she’s TEN!
2) Violence/Guns – It seems violence is everywhere. We see it on the news and hear it on the radio. We overhear conversations about it and it has even been mentioned in a couple sermons at our church. Try as we may, we simply cannot keep our children completely sheltered from today’s harsh realities. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, my girls’ elementary school, like many others, practiced a lockdown drill and there were discussions about why anyone would do such a horrible thing and whether it could/would happen in our school. My oldest, who does not deal well with “crisis” situations, definitely had some serious anxiety over the whole thing (as did most everyone I know). When she asked if it could happen at her school, I wanted to say, “No, never!” Sadly, though, that is not the truth. Earlier this week, she caught wind of the news story about the little boy, Ethan, in Alabama who was taken from the safety of his school bus and held hostage for almost a week. She also heard something about Obama’s gun control proposal. All this led to revisiting the conversation and giving even more details about guns and gun violence. It makes me so sad that I have to have this conversation with my children – or with anyone.
3) Politics – Of course, before the election, there were political ads every time you turned on the T.V. or radio. We got phone calls touting this candidate or that. My kids wanted to know, “What’s the big deal?” Then, they wanted to know, “Who are you and Daddy going to vote for and why??” There were also questions like “What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?” which led to terms like “conservative” and “liberal,” which led to even more questions. They had Kids Voting at the elementary, so the girls cam home telling me which candidate they had chosen – and which one many of their friends had chosen. Then, Rachel went to D.C. for the inauguration. Although, I certainly have opinions and ideas about politics, I am not one to discuss it much. I truly found myself amazed at some of the conversations I was having with my children during that time – conversations I would have seriously hesitated to have with most adults.
4) Different Lifestyles – I frequently like to watch the show House Hunters on HGTV. My girls like to watch it with me and I always thought it was relatively benign until it led to this question: “Why are those two guys buying a house together?” Another similar show also once led to questions about interracial relationships. These questions, of course, led to discussions about why some people have lifestyles that are different from the family structure we have.
5) Religion – We go to church very regularly and, as the girls learn more and more about religion – ours and that of others – they, naturally, have more questions. We have had discussions that started with questions like, “Why do we need cemeteries if people go to Heaven?” or “Does God make everything happen – even bad things like tornadoes?” Recently, my oldest had a friend over who told her she is not allowed to play anything having to do with witches which led to a conversation about different religions and different beliefs about good, evil, and God. I haven’t had such deep conversations about religion with many adults and certainly never thought I would have those discussions with my kids this early.
6) Sex – This one had to be on the list, right?? The thing is we haven’t actually discussed this one yet, but I know it’s coming. As I mentioned above, I have discussed puberty with my oldest. Her class is studying a unit on the human body and is currently focused on genetics and DNA. Just the other night, she said, “I know I have some DNA from you and some from dad, but how did it actually get inside of me??” I avoided it at the time because we were in the car with my little one (and because, frankly, I just wasn’t prepared to go there), but, obviously, it is on the horizon.
So, how old are your kids?? Have you had any of these conversations with them yet?? When do you think kids are ready to have these discussions?? Are there any others that I should get ready to have soon??