Children can handle information, whether they understand it or not. When we’re born, it’s all new, of course, and because it’s all new, it’s all the same. None of it is shocking, or traumatic, or any more confusing than the rest of it; it’s all just information, all new information that they file away. If it’s adult stuff, and doesn’t fit into their present experience, they will simply file it away for future reference, and the stuff that is relevant to their young life, they will put it into active use. Information is only shocking and traumatic when it is either information of a traumatic fact, like a death in the family, or when it is withheld for years and then sprung on us rather too late for us to easily fit it into our worldview. This worldview is always being built and develops as we accumulate information and work to make sense of it and the world; if we are practically grown up and have already worked hard to build a complete worldview, a systematic understanding of life and the world before we learn about and have to incorporate something as basic and pervasive as, for example, sex, or death – well, that can indeed be problematic. It isn’t the facts of sex and death that are the cause of this sort of difficulty; it is the unnatural withholding of this information, the censorship, which is the real cause.
Truth should be our guide when we’re talking to our kids. If the simple, child-friendly answer fails as truth, then it is a lie, and should be abandoned in favour of the more complex, grown up, true answer. Never mind that they don’t understand: truth is truth. A lie we understand is a double threat to our minds, the worst kind of lie because we are continually accumulating knowledge and understanding and so everything that comes after, everything built upon those sorts of lies will be fraught with errors. When our adult, long winded explanations are not understood, they will either ask “Why?” for several hours (if our answers can hold up that long!), or they will simply get bored and move on. So be it. Truth above all.
– here’s part #1: