Today is Pearl Harbor Day, the 70th anniversary of a sneak attack that devastated a nation. I’ve studied this event a bit in the past, and it’s pretty gruesome. I want my children to understand facets of history, and yet I worry about giving them too much information before they’re ready for it. This is one of the ways in which parents are uniquely qualified to teach their children—they understand their child’s maturity level and they know what that child can and cannot handle.
I have a daughter who can’t hear any bad news on the radio or it distresses her horribly. Anything she needs to be taught, I must present as gently as possible. I have another son who needs everything to be presented against a gospel backdrop, to be reminded that Heavenly Father loves and cares for all of us and that He is watching, even when things are hard. My seven-year-old has a very “whatever” attitude about everything he hears—things don’t really sink in with him. My other son is more accepting of the harsher realities of life. With four children and four very different responses, I need to create a balance in how I teach about these tough events in history.
I’ve known some parents who don’t teach their children hard stuff. I knew a family who thought Elvis Presley was corrupt, so they didn’t teach their children about him at all, which made them seem backwards, from a pop culture standpoint. As teachers, we have the responsibility to make sure our children know about certain things, but as their parents, we can also include supporting stories or facts that will help our children accept those events in the proper framework. Perhaps in the case of Elvis, those parents could have presented him as the cultural icon he was, and then followed it with, “He made choices we don’t agree with personally.”
I feel it’s not responsible to shield our children to the extent that they are missing out on chunks of knowledge, but I feel it’s very irresponsible not to monitor their emotional reactions to the things they are being taught. I will not go into the horrors of the concentration camps until my children are in their teens, but right now I can give them a general overview of World War II. One step at a time, as they are ready … isn’t that how we all learn best?