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Filling in the Holes in their (Home) Education

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Or: Talking to your kids about Stuff
 
Last week was a big weeks for News. A conference about agunot. An epic filibuster regarding abortion rights. And the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Things I more or less followed, thanks to my Facebook newsfeed.
 
But I followed them alone. The dinner table discussion revolved about the mundane aspects of life with kids—homework, recess drama and upcoming summer plans. So I was struck by a friend’s Facebook post the morning after the filibuster, wondering how she would explain abortion rights to her children when they came home from school. It turns out they had seen her watching the filibuster action and wanted to know what was going on. She bought herself some time with “Gotta get you to school! Talk later!” But, you know, once your kids are of a certain age, they actually remember when you promise them stuff. And they come to collect.
 
Which made me think: Should I be talking to my kids about this stuff? On the one hand, it’s not really relevant to their lives at this point. It may raise questions they are too young to grapple with. It may cause unnecessary worries and fears. On the other hand, isn’t it better to be proactive than reactionary? Do I want to wait until my children hear misinformation to then set them straight? (And yes, while I realize that gay marriageabortion rights and agunot are three very different topics that require three very different conversations, possibly at three very different points in their lives, for the purposes of this blog, I am lumping them together under “Big Important Topics That May Be Difficult to Explain to Children So When Should You Talk about Them?”)
 
There are definitely times when, as parents, we need to have proactive discussions. For example, talking to your daughter about developing and getting her period is definitely something you want to do ahead of time. Pregnancy is often a natural time to talk to your kids about how babies get in and how they get out. (My daughter took the answer to the first in stride, was horrified at the answer to the second). This past year, when my daughter’s teacher lost an (already apparent) pregnancy, it was an opportunity, however sad, to talk about miscarriage.
 
But these other issues, once that don’t really come up organically in their lives or in daily conversation? Do I bring them up? Do I teach them about women’s rights? Gay marriage? Why someone may want or need to abort a baby?
 
To help me decide, I will make a list.
 
Reasons in favor of taking the initiative include:
  1. I want my children to be informed, educated and knowledgeable about their world.
  2. Having a casual conversation about it now can lay the groundwork, so if these topics comes up in a discussion with friends or while listening to the news, they will have a context for the information.
  3. Is there ever a good time to discuss some of this stuff? Just bring it up yourself and control how they hear about it for the first time and be there to explain it in an age-appropriate manner.
Reasons against having these discussions now:
  1. It’s hard, it’s complicated and largely irrelevant to them at this point. As anyone with kids knows, What Does This Have To Do With Me is largely how children filter their world and all information thereof.
So, my bottom line is: I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that during these discussions, whenever they occur, I will:
 
Talk to my sons and my daughter equally. As my friend so astutely pointed out, “women’s health/issues/rights” affect everyone. No matter who you are or where you end up, women are and will be an important part of your life.
 
Be honest about halacha. About the importance of finding solutions within a framework of halacha. And yes, how that can sometimes feel very frustrating.
 
Answer their questions honestly and admit when I don’t know something. Because really, that’s the best I can do.
 
What do you think?

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