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Our Discomfort As Parents About Discussing ‘Taboo Topics’ With Kids Is Hurting Their Lives

Posted: February 15, 2021

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We avoid difficult conversations with our kids because we feel they are too young to understand, but we’re just giving in to our own discomfort.

I was on the verge of completing my creative writing class with kids when one of them urged me to stay back for a few minutes. I understood that the child must have penned down something new and wanted to share it with me. I nodded with a smile, and he began narrating an excerpt from his tale with animated gestures.

Soon, I was caught off-guard as I heard the word ‘gay’. I blinked and asked him to tell me the story again, lest I had got it wrong. That’s when the 10-year-old explained his story to me.

He was in the midst of writing a love story involving a gay couple and the challenges they face because they want to get married. Without revealing more about his plot, I want to add that eventually the couple also adopts a transgender child in his story.

A happy, proud point for me as the child’s mentor

I think I seamlessly shifted from feeling incredulous to awestruck to proud to content. The reason the child chose to write a story on this theme is that he has learnt over time from his parents and mentors about the hardships endured by the LGBTQ+ community. He wants to use the power of his words to help spread awareness and be an ally in getting them the acceptance they deserve. He understands their rights and the unfairness meted out to them by society at large.

The sensibility and sensitivity demonstrated by the child at such a tender age is highly inspiring, considering many adults too fail to see these matters with an objective and empathetic lens. This speaks volumes about his upbringing and compassion.

The discomfort of adults

But at the same time, I could sense the apprehensions of some adults with regard to broaching such topics with the kids when I shared this incident on social media.

It is a common line of thought that talking to kids about the perceived difficult or serious topics can burden them or “rob them of their innocence”.

My natural approach to parenting is to not shy away from discussing anything with my child. It is just instinctive and not something I do consciously. Menstruation, LGBTQ+ issues, societal biases, mental health, et al – my 6-year-old knows a bit about all of this. Of course, at this age, there is only so much that she can process, so I try to simplify things as much as possible when she asks me questions, or when such topics come up during our casual conversations. Not everyone gets this, and I have also been told that I am ‘taking away’ from the innocence of her childhood by bombarding her with knowledge that she supposedly doesn’t need at this age.

Children understand nuances more than you think they do

Well, my daughter pampers me during my periods and ensures she lifts up my mood to make me feel better with her adorable and innocent gestures. She believes in fairies and Santa and all that is fantasy. She looks for magic in the mundane. She asks us if she can surprise us before actually planning he surprise. I don’t think any of our talks has taken away from her innocence.

Most of the parents today believe in raising a more perceptive and thoughtful generation. Yet, we postpone difficult conversations because we feel the child is too young to understand. I think this is where all of us need to look within and answer some questions honestly.

All kids are different, and a parent knows best when to bring up discussions on complex subjects with them. But, are we also undermining the perceptivity of kids in the process? Is it our own fear of not being able to give the right answers to their curious questions?  The more we are uncomfortable ourselves, the harder sensitizing our kids on matters that matter becomes.

I often hear the argument that too much awareness can have negative repercussions on the young minds. While I am no one to decide for any parent, as a mentor who works extensively with kids of all age groups, I can say from what I have observed that most kids already know more than what their parents think they know. We need to recognize and acknowledge the fact that these days there are multiple sources that can expose kids to a sea of information. So, it is no more about whether a child should be made aware of something. Rather, it is about how the impressionable mind is getting fed.

Children are our hope for the future

Kids who can own their ideas and expression with earnestness and confidence can truly make this world a better place. This can happen only when we trust them and empower them with knowledge beyond the books. Dismissing their questions about worldly matters or chiding them over their inquisitiveness on a topic is only going to make them feel lost and unheard. Instead, we can take little steps and have open and continuous conversations with them, keeping in mind their age and their responsiveness.

This doesn’t mean that we overload them. It’s just that we don’t need to discredit their intelligence. We can add the nuances as they grow and develop their thinking, but we can certainly initiate dialogue when they are ready for it. Approach it matter-of-factly without feeling embarrassed and chances are high that the kid will also draw from your frankness and pragmatism.

It’s a myth that an aware kid isn’t childlike. It’s a myth that knowing about the world would make the child grow up too soon. It’s a myth that brushing topics under the carpet would keep a child oblivious to it. I feel responding to my child with honesty and respect will help in building her trust in me which is important for her to be able to share her queries, doubts, thoughts and fears. An hour back, she was asking me a question about the profession of psychologists. Right now, she is busy thinking about a magical fairy whom she expects to meet some day!

Image source: shutterstock

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Multiple award winning blogger, influencer, author, multi-faceted entrepreneur, creative writing mentor, choreographer, social activist

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