The other night at the dinner table, our conversation went something like that (not verbatim):
Me: today on our walk we saw a family scattering a loved one's ashes into the canal near lock 25.
Sam: Jack was very naughty, he went to say hello (to the living, thankfully)
Me: well, he made the family smile and we were all on the canal path, which is popular with walkers, particularly on a Sunday.
Sam: Mummy said to throw her into a river instead
Me: Presumably after cremation?
Annie: I want to have all my organs removed and donated before being
James: (not even looking up from his Chinese dumpling) I want to be barbecued.
A moment of silence followed, then the conversation went on to more casual topics, like who annoyed whom and the sad fact that the summer holidays are nearly over.
We talk openly about lots of things, often in a quite casual manner. I hope you are not offended by the above. It is not particularly unusual for us to have such chats. Death is a difficult concept to explain to children, especially if you do not have any religious beliefs and generally don't believe in fobbing the children off with half truths. How do you deal with serious topics such as death and illness? How do you talk to your children about abuse and neglect? Bullying and being bullied? Racism? Extremism? Adoption and fostering (a relevant topic in our house). Drugs and alcohol. Sex and where babies come from? And all those other tricky topics.
I don't think the 'lets sit down and talk about' approach works for us. At best, it triggers a 'mum don't you see I am busy' response. I prefer it when topics come up naturally, although being asked at the supermarket checkout out what it means to be molested is slightly embarrassing. Luckily I don't do the shopping very often.
Do tell, what works for you? Do your children ask lots of questions? Or do they need to be gently prodded to ask certain questions?