So, I’m sitting on a train on my way to work this morning and a woman and a young child (he was probably around 8 years old) sat near me talking. I don’t know the nature of their relationship (mother/son; grandmother/grandson; auntie/nephew) only because I hate to assume. But judging from their interaction, they behaved as parent and child.
Anyhow, the woman was explaining to the lad what happens to the body when a person has a heart attack. Apparently someone close to them was recently stricken and in the hospital. Given the woman’s language and technical expertise, she was most certainly a doctor, a nurse, or some other professional in the medical field. She used very precise, and technical medical terminology as she described the impact a heart attack has on a person’s breathing, blood flow, brain functioning, and many other things I know nothing about. All I ever knew about a heart attack is that your arteries are clogged so severely that oxygen and blood cannot sufficiently flow to the brain and it can make your heart stop. I still know very little about heart attacks, certainly not to the detail that this woman and child were discussing. He obviously understood much of what she said, as he actively engaged her and asked very pointed questions. She must talk to him about such things all the time.
Their discussion reminded me how often we shield information from children. Often when adults are having certain discussions, they send the children to another room or if the children initiate the discussion, they reply telling them that it’s “grown folk’s business.” When adults do talk to them, they usually give them the bare bones of information. It’s no wonder why some kids grow up information deficient.
I have always believed that we can have an age-appropriate dialogue with any child about any topic. It makes me think back to when I was in school when some students always seemed to know everything, some of whom probably knew more than the teacher. There are some real life Steve Urkels in the world. Perhaps it’s due in some measure to what their parents exposed them to before they began school. We should be more proactive at being open with kids. Some things may be painful to talk about or it may be painful for the kids to hear, but long-term, I think it will be better for everyone to have that discussion.