This intrigued me for many reasons, but most notably because I think most of us carry scars (whether visible or internal) and these issues are things that our own children may someday face. Things that we as parents certainly want to always protect our kids from, but in this world of ours, is not always possible.
For me, there is the deep wound of a date rape in college and subsequent behavior where I actively and passively tried to hurt myself because for many years I felt responsible for the assault.
My mental illness, (major depression, anxiety as well as postpartum depression) which is most likely inherited at least to some degree and could possibly be passed on to my children.
The wounds caused by the deaths of friends by suicide and attempted suicide.
Scars I and many of us developed watching places and people we love ravaged by terror attacks and natural disasters. 9/11 touched me in many ways, as did Hurricane Katrina (I went to college in New Orleans). And of course more recent events in Haiti and Japan.
Others of you may have experienced divorce, family or personal illnesses, molestation, deaths, discrimination, poverty, abuse, neglect, miscarriage, infertility, prematurity, crime, war, etc. So many things happening in our own little corner of society that we hope to protect our children from but probably won’t. Our struggles often define us, challenge us and help us grow.
And that’s ok. I’m not trying to be a total downer. As Dory says to Nemo’s dad Marlin in Finding Nemo, “If you never let anything happen to him, nothing would happen.” I think we also want the good for our children that goes with the bad. I believe we just need to give our kids the information and tools they’ll need to survive in our world, this world, not the “nothing bad ever happens” planet.
But it’s a tough thing to consider. When is the right time to bring up sex and sexual misconduct? When do kids need to learn some adults might hurt them and make them feel to blame? When do my kids need to know their mom has a mental illness? Or that it could one day affect them personally.
We don’t want to scare our kids with too much too soon. But what is too soon? Children are having sex in grade school. Might a talk with my daughter about my own date rape be useful in say 2nd grade? It sounds crazy, I know. But pre-teens are having kids these days.
As parents we must choose our own path toward information, and the education of our children when it comes to the difficult topics. No matter what level of information we share at what age, I believe honesty and openness is key.
I didn’t know until adulthood that my grandmother suffered from mental illness. Perhaps knowing as a child would have helped me accept or overcome my own anxiety. Who knows? And I’m certainly not blaming parents for not telling me. They probably had no idea my stomach aches every day in 2nd grade was anxiety.
I think we’re better equipped today to notice and understand such things, than our parents might have been. My mom didn’t have blogs like this to find support or learn from. I am personally hyper-aware due to my own experiences, but also because of the greater openness some of our society has adopted, at least in my own little corner of the world.