Your son comes home from first grade and wants to know why his friend has two mummies and no daddies. You believe marriage was intended for one man and one woman. What do you do? Your ten year old wants to watch a rated R movie that all of her friends have seen, but you don’t allow them in your home. What do you say?
Like it or not, these types of topics are going to come up. By these types of topics I mean controversial topics that as a parent, you’ll have to take a stand on. Regardless of your views on same-sex marriage, rated R movies, or any other controversial topic that comes up involving your kids, when addressing a sensitive topic, keep these tips in mind.
Don’t Shy Away
While some parents shy away from sharing their beliefs on such topics because they believe it’s best to let their kids draw their own conclusions when they are older, that approach really isn’t fair to the child. Children look to their parents for guidance in all areas of life. They look to you to know what is acceptable and what is not within your family unit. Should you not address sensitive but important issues, your child will run into someone that has strong opinions about an issue and is willing and eager to share them. The end result? Your child’s values begin to be shaped by others.
Remember Your Goal
The key when taking your stand is finding the balance between communicating your beliefs with communicating them in a way that does not send a negative message about people who believe something different. While the lifestyle or choices people make may be wrong in your eyes, and communicating that to your children can be appropriate, categorizing people as good or bad based on their decisions can be problematic. When looking for the balance, you must remember your goal: to teach your children what is acceptable and not acceptable within your family and why.
Framing Your Values
When your ten-year-old wants to watch the rated R movie all of her friends have seen, sure you could say “Your friend’s parents are horrible parents for allowing such a thing,” but sending such a negative message can be divisive. Not only will your child be angry and come to her friend’s parents defence, she won’t learn anything about why you won’t allow her to watch the movie. A more appropriate response would be “In our family we don’t watch rated R movies because we don’t allow swear words in our house.” When you can keep the focus on your family and off of others, you’re able to send a clearer message and accomplish your goals. Doing so also eliminates the chance of your child going back to her friend and saying “My mum thinks your mum is a bad mum.”
I remember when working as a professional nanny with a family I’d been with for several years, one of the children came home from preschool and said “Today Sara married Sallie on the playground!” The child then went onto say he wanted to marry one of his friends. Our response was, “Well that’s nice but in our family boys marry girls and girls marry boys.” The conversation ended there. The children didn’t leave the conversation believing their friend’s parents were horrible or feel that the children were bad, instead they left knowing that while in other families it may be acceptable, based on what we believed it wasn’t.
While tackling tough topics can be difficult, it’s important to share your beliefs with your children. Children are born with a blank compass and it’s our job as parents to point them in the direction of what our family believes to be true north.