Giving Your Kids Honest Answers

We run on a pretty tight schedule around here in the mornings. Getting two kids out the door to two different schools at two different times doesn't leave a lot of time for interruptions or deviations in the schedule.

But yesterday morning I found myself explaining the volatile political situation in the Middle East to my 9-year-old. She learned about ambassadors and embassies and why it's so dangerous for our diplomats in other countries if we let someone kill one of our diplomats without some kind of response. It wasn't a breakfast conversation that I had planned to have.

Usually, I wake my daughters up, so I know when they're going to be in the kitchen. My usual routine is to make the girls' lunches before they get up and listen to the news on the radio while I'm doing it. When I woke up to the news of the U.S. ambassador to Libya being killed yesterday, I actually thought about needing to turn the news off before my younger one got up.

Except yesterday morning, she got up on her own and walked into the kitchen unannounced right at 7 a.m. when the top of the hour national news is on. From that moment, she had plenty of questions.

I didn't want to explain the messiness of the situation in the Middle East to my 9-year-old. I didn't want to emphasize the realities of death and destruction and people who hate the United States. I didn't want to explain extremism and terrorism. I didn't want to scare her.

I could have ignored the questions. I could have told her she was too young to understand it all. I could have told her we'd talk about it later. But I didn't. I stopped what I was doing. I sat down at the table, and I explained as much of the situation as a 9-year-old can understand because I didn't want to leave her questions hanging in the air. I didn't want to let her 9-year-old brain try to process the unexplainable on its own.

I don't know why some people feel they have the right to try to enforce their beliefs on others by killing people who don't agree with them. I don't know why some people see freedom as a threat. I don't know why someone would deliberately target a man who had done nothing but put his energies into helping the people of a country gain democracy.

But I do know that my daughter's questions demanded answers. I do know that if I can't shelter her from the tough stuff on the news, then I have to be prepared to talk with her about it. I have to give her a filter through which to view the events. Because to let her try to process that stuff with a 9-year-old brain isn't fair. To ignore her questions and concerns makes them appear unimportant.

It's tempting to give our kids' half-truths or to put them off when they ask questions that are hard to  answer, but if I want my girls to come to me to discuss not just world events but the events of their world, then I have to be honest. If I'm not honest with them about the questions they ask, if I don't act like those questions are important, then they won't come to me to answer them.

God doesn't exempt us from telling the truth simply because it makes us uncomfortable or because we're trying to shelter our kids. He says, "Do not lie. Do not deceive one another" (Leviticus 19:11). That even applies when we're trying to protect our kids.

And that's why I found myself at the breakfast table explaining embassies, ambassadors and extremism -- not because I want my 9-year-old to know about those things but because I want her to know that her questions are important to me. So that when her questions have a more direct impact on her life, when she's trying to make a tough decision, she'll come to me and ask me her questions because she knows her mom won't brush them off and will give her an honest answer.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.