Ask an expert - Bromleigh McCleneghan, pastor
Last updated 10/30/2019 at 3:57pm | View PDF
Should parents address tough
topics with kids?
Kids can be more astute at sussing out truth than adults give them credit for. But when discussing sensitive matters like gender identity, divorce or death, gliding past honest discussion can seem like the more prudent choice.
In the essay collection, "When Kids Ask Hard Questions," co-editor Bromleigh McCleneghan, associate pastor for ministry with families at Union Church of Hinsdale, aims to help parents tackle these tough topics through intentional conversations.
"We can try really hard to shelter (kids), but that doesn't really equip them," McCleneghan said.
She and several contributing authors will hold the panel discussion "Practical Advice for Telling the Truth and Avoiding Common Pitfalls" Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Union Church (see Page 18 for details). McCleneghan said the book fills a need among faith-based parenting titles.
"A lot of Christian books about parenting for a long time were overwhelmingly theologically conservative," she remarked. "All of our writers, save two, are Christian, and pretty progressive Christian, though from a wide range of denominations. And then there's also a conservative rabbi and a Muslim woman."
Their respective religious traditions influence their counsel, McCleneghan said, but the wisdom they offer has universal application.
"Everyone's really grounded in the truth claims of their communities. And so there's definitely a sense that the ways that we talk to our kids will be borne out of our commitments," she said. "We're not talking about telling the truth always in terms of 'facts.' But rather what is true and right and good as we know it and as we have experienced it."
While many may not have firsthand exposure to some of the topics covered, instructive materials are readily available.
"We actually have a lot more resources at our disposal to talk about hard things," McCleneghan commented.
She cited essays by two women who each lost their husbands while raising young children. That's the kind of tragedy that resonates in any community, and the tendency with young ones may be to talk around the pain with platitudes.
"We don't have to tell kids that it's OK. They can see our grief," McCleneghan said. "And they have their own. So how do you help them make sense of what they see and what they experience?"
Knowing one's child and his or her maturity level is important.
"The sex conversation you have with your kindergartner is very different than the one you have with your 12-year-old," she stressed.
Panel attendees are encouraged to bring with them challenging issues or questions raised by their children, including those concerning faith.
"If you can't explain your theology in terms that makes sense to the youngest folks, then you should rethink your theology," she said. "You need good information, and you have to work through it yourself and than adapt it to your kid.
"What we hope to do with the panel and the book is to help model how to do that and a give parents a sense of their responsibility to help their kids make meaning out of life's hard things."