Tuesday, 11 August 2015

important conversations


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 cremated used as fertilizer (edited at Annie's request, my memory is apparently not reliable)
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?










22 comments:

  1. What a priceless conversation. I like to deal with things naturally as they arise as well. A lot of our more graphic conversations seem to take place over the dinner table for some reason. CJ xx

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  2. I agree a light openness about it all, I don't remember having those sit and talk conversations with my children it all just came about in normal everyday conversations, on the subject of death if it was a close family member I took the children to the funeral, talked openly about how people believed in life after death or heaven or whatever there chosen belief was, if they asked I answered in an appropriate way to there age and understanding, and yes there have been occasions when a question comes up and you are standing in a public place :-)

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  3. Boxfordellie
    Great conversation! I have a lot of chats with my daughter (now nearly 17) in the car. Otherwise, like you, over the dinner table. She's never really needed prodding and I've just always answered her questions until she stopped asking.

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  4. It's a long time since my sons were children. I think the best way is to be truthful and treat their questions with respect. Answer as fully as you can (depends on their age really) and try not to be too serious.

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  5. Great conversation, like Gillian it been a long time my own daughters are now grown up and have families of their own. I do think an open and honest approach is best, answering as fully as you are able. All 3 daughters never needed any prodding they were always full of questions about everything.

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  6. I think that this is great, it is totally natural, becomes a normal part of life and it becomes therefore natural and a normal part of life to have these conversations, so what some may perceive as difficult conversations in fact become fairly ordinary - such as talking about things like this are ever ordinary. xx

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  7. Love it, a colleague of mine went to scatter his dads ashes in a field hey used to own. However there were sheep in there the day they went so he was scattered into the hedge instead! We have tried hard to be honest & open with the kids as my parents were very reserved, I wanted a totally different upbringing for mine x

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  8. We were like you, we talked about everything, but in a fairly casual way.

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  9. Love it! We mostly eat our meals together at the table (apart from the odd treat when it's eaten off a tray in front of the TV) and we talk about anything and everything. I think parents nowadays are different from when I was younger when there certain things that you "didn't talk about in front of the children" and although you still need to be selective sometimes, there's no reason why they should be involved in what's going on. How else do they find out about the world? I always used to wonder if there was a date after which I'd be allowed to listen to grown up conversations as they always seemed so much more interesting! xx

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  10. We've been very open and honest with our kids from day one. They were very young when my sister died and then the following year I underwent treatment for cancer myself so they've known all about death and what can happen when you're ill from very young. I can't remember any questions which have arisen which I've had to fudge an answer for, if they're old enough to ask a question they're old enough to get a truthful answer. I think some subjects such as drugs, sex, racism etc, wouldn't necessarily be brought up by the child themselves so we've just introduced such things in to a conversation a bit at a time, no more than they could cope with at once, over a period of time until they've understood what we're telling them. Things like bullying, well racism too, is introduced at school and they've possible come home and brought these type of subjects up which we've gone on to explain more thoroughly to them. Fostering and adoption has been a natural subject for us to discuss as they've got lots of friends who have been fostered and who are adopted. They've just taken that for what it is really, some children are born in to a family and some enter the family at different times in their lives.

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  11. We talk about everything very openly. My husband and I are not squeamish about anything, really. If they ask a question, we answer it in the simplest real terms and they're almost always satisfied. We try to be choosy about what we expose them to, of course, but we don't hide our disagreements from them, we occasionally swear in front of them, they see us both naked now and then, etc. I'd rather have a casual and honest relationship with them from the beginning than try to figure out how to do that later on when they may need even more adult guidance in their lives than they did as little kids.

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  12. Dinner table chat sounds very intersting in your house!

    I remember reading somewhere that you should simply answer the question asked, and no more. And if they want more details or explanation, they'll come back to you. That didn't stop Angus asking doggedly "but HOW to babies get in your tummy mummy, how to they get IN there" the other day. That was trying... xx

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  13. My daughter was 4 when we lost my mother so we had to have the tricky conversation. She knew about death because we'd watched 'The Lion King' and Simba loses his father. I'm glad she'd watched that and we'd talked about it before Mum died. She accepted it the way kids do: I found one of her Barbie dolls on the stairs one day when she was playing and she told me that this one had died and gone to heaven. Like other parents here, I answered awkward questions honestly as they came up, often through watching soap operas with her dad. As a result she sometimes knew more than some of her friends about tricky issues like, for example, prostitution. I don't think it's done her any harm - she's still happy to talk to me about everything now she's a teenager.

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  14. My children are adults now...but, I do remember dinner time. I also tried to keep it casual....

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  15. By the way, thanks for your recent comment on my blog...I will probably be in Scotland again in the Spring and maybe again in the Autumn 2016.

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  16. I think you've got it just right. Dealing with topics as they arise and being open seems the best way to deal with tricky subjects.

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  17. We talk about all sorts in our family as well!!! Though I would prefer not to be bbq'd!! :)
    I Hope you have a great weekend!
    Tammy x

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  18. I find that today's generation are much more happy to talk about a large variety of topics at the dinner table - anything at all really - there are no limits. Sitting down at the table immediately creates a forum for discussion, from the mundane to the pseudo-intellectual. I think that any time we are together - in the car, on a walk, going shopping etc, is the appropriate time. I've always answered questions from day one in a fairly straightforward, non-emotional way. Our most recent conversation along these lines made me laugh though - son no. 2 said "In my student flat next year I've got a double bed so I'll need some new sheets" to which someone immediately replied "Does that mean you might get a girlfriend at long last?" which kind of dealt with the whole first-time sex topic in a friendly and open way, for which I was glad. It means that the next time we go on a walk I can have a talk with him about girls and relationships! Judy.

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  19. We talk a lot. Usually unplanned and spontaneous. I am a firm believer in answering questions clearly and truthfully at a level appropriate to the age involved. I am the same in my classroom. I talk as honesty as I can, yet not past the understanding of each child. Some people might be shocked at what I am wiling to tell kids, but I've learned that children can understand more than we give them credit for and I've never had a chid become upset by what I've said.

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  20. I wish I had some wisdom to share about tackling tough topics with kids, but to be honest I'm laughing so hard about the wanting to be barbecued comment that I can't think straight. :-)

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  21. I just answer as well as I can at the level they are ready for when they ask me. No let's sit down chats here. we had one about Rosa Parks and apartheid last week . Jo x

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  22. We're the same, anything goes pretty much. I always feel that it's good to take the opportunity when it arises, and not force things. I think honesty is fundamentally important, including being honest about what we aren't sure of. Occasionally there is something we want to address, and then we will tell that child that we'd like to talk about whatever it is, but let them choose the moment. With our adopted son, we did Life Story Work for quite a while, making life story books and just telling stories. We've been as open as possible - depending on the children's ages - about difficult topics such as abuse, drugs, etc. (Relevant to our son's history.) We regularly look at old family videos as well. At 23 he now has questions about his birth family and we answer only what he asks, and we don't offer more information than that. Such an interesting question, and interesting to read other people's comments.

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