Parenting Advice – Carnival of natural parenting
Last week, Lauren and Dionna ran their wonderful Carnival of natural parenting. The theme was to write a ‘Dear Abby‘ style letter about parenting.
At that time I had nothing to ask, nothing I needed wisdom on. I’m quite a self contained person; tending to look to myself for answers that lie deep within.
However, something happened this morning and so now, a week after the carnival, I’m reaching out for help.
My daughter is 9. She is very sensitive, loving, wise beyond her years and a great thinker and questioner.
I’ve always prided myself on being honest with her. I share my truth, as does my husband and we like to share knowledge so that she can make empowered decisions in her own life.
She loves nature – she will rescue worms, woodlice and silver fish. She loves trees, plants and all animals.
Bees are one creature with which she has developed a particular affinity.
The other day we were talking about GM foods. We all signed a petition to try and ban them in the EU. We told her why GM foods were not a good thing for our planet or body, but shared that they MIGHT be the only way we can feed ourselves in the future which is why people are promoting them.
Today she read an article in the daily newspaper then ran upstairs. I just knew something was wrong. I gave her a couple of minutes alone with her feelings before going to find her. I found her sitting in her bedroom, staring out of the window with tears running down her face.
I asked her what was wrong. She said “Did you read the article in the paper about the hornets?” I hadn’t read it, so she went to get the paper and read it out to me.
It was a story about a ‘killer hornet‘
The article began “Giant hornets attacking Gloucestershire’s honeybees could be the final nail in its honey production industry”. Apparently these ‘deadly beasts’ attack bees flying out of the hives until the colony is exhausted, then move inside to eat the bee larvae.
The article finished with the fact that a few hornets could destroy 30,000 bees in a couple of hours.
I asked her why she was actually crying; I didn’t want to make an assumption. I didn’t know whether she felt sorry for the bees, was scared about being stung by a hornet or a myriad of other reasons. One thing I have learned as a parent is NEVER to make an assumption – adult perception and children’s perception are two totally different things.
Her fear was that without honeybees one third of our food would disappear and she would be hungry. Then she would be forced to eat GM foods which were bad and she might die from hunger because her body would reject this ‘bad’ food. She had worked out that honeybees dying out could happen during her lifetime and she was worried about the consequences to her health and future.
The curse of the empath is such that I felt her pain. My tears fell too, for her, for the realisations she had put together (and what a realisation!), for the fact that a nine year old child has to question and worry about things, for the fact that we are living in a world gone crazy …
I sat her on my lap and told her to remember that the media always paint the ‘worst case scenario’ picture. These are what sell the papers and sky rocket the tv ratings. We’ve been on the wrong end of the media, so was able to show her that from experience, we know they don’t always print the truth and they exaggerate.
We have three contacts she can get hold of for their side of the story. I reminded her that it’s not always positive to take the first story we read as factual information. Sure we sometimes get a hunch with something and know it to be true, but often we need to research and gather opinions from other experts before reaching our own conclusion.
I pointed out that we have seen stories about rubbish being left in streets. How people fear that they will get attacked by rats and foxes will be roaming around. Because we know about rubbish and are knowledgeable about these things, we are able to see these stories for what they are. Unfortunately we do not know much about bees (or hornets) so we have to find the opinions of people who do in order to amass their wisdom.
I suggested she take the article to someone she knows on Monday who knows all about wildlife and that we write to the bumblebee conservation trust for their opinion. After that we ask a lady who is coming to talk to us about bees in June what her opinion is.
I feel I dealt with this ok; my daughter is certainly much happier now and feels inspired to talk to other people.
But my question still lingers and troubles me somewhat:
How do we empower our kids with knowledge so that they can make decisions without frightening them? Or is being fear a motivator that ensures action?
How do we achieve the balance between allowing them to walk through life with their eyes open and not having them spend their life fearful and worried?
How do we protect their innocence or is this not our place to do that?
How do we gently tell them about things going on in the world without going overboard?
I say we should never pass a ten tonne truth over a one tonne bridge, but how do we achieve that? Is it a case of checking everything they read – should I stop her reading the newspaper?
I would love to know how you achieve this delicate balance with your children.
I think you handled it beautifully.
Q: How do we empower our kids with knowledge so that they can make decisions without frightening them? Or is being fear a motivator that ensures action?
Reply: I think as parents it is our job to help our children manage the fear they feel and enable them to develop skills in which they can eventually learn to deal with fear themselves.
Q How do we achieve the balance between allowing them to walk through life with their eyes open and not having them spend their life fearful and worried?
Replay: Oh gosh, I think the child’s own personality comes into this a lot; and I guess it is very much an individual family thing, as I suspect one’s own fears and worries will shape the situations we try to protect our children from as long as possible.
Q. How do we protect their innocence or is this not our place to do that?
Reply: I actually wonder what we mean when we talk about “protecting children’s innocence” – it’s such a modern concept, are we talking about their imagination, the seeming simplicity in which children view the world and experience it so immediately through their emotions and movements?
Q. How do we gently tell them about things going on in the world without going overboard?
Reply: Hmm, don’tknow, I’ll be interested to know what other parents suggest to this. It is something I’ve been wondering about myself.
Q. I say we should never pass a ten tonne truth over a one tonne bridge, but how do we achieve that? Is it a case of checking everything they read – should I stop her reading the newspaper?
Reply: No, it’s doing what you did above. Being there for your daughter and helping her to navigate the emotions and worries any articles bring up. While not the most pleasant of learning experiences, the article, the emotions/fears it raised and you helping her to consider the article from a more analytical view point, and seek out more facts etc; wonderful learning going on there, that is also a real world event; the experience is equipping her for dealing with articles and other things that may upset her in the future.
I love your statement about sharing your truth – this is exactly our approach with our girls, if they ask we tell (obviously in an age appropriate manner). So I too often have similar dilemas, Meg isn’t as old as your DD so I’m sure it will get much harder as she grows, in that the questions and concerns get more difficult. I don’t think there is any “right” answer as every child is different. But in everything I believe honesty is the best approach, however in Meg’s case (age 4) we do limit access to the news as she simply isn’t old enough to understand the answers to some of the likely questions, so we do conciously protect her innocence (for the same reason we limit exposure to advertising as much as we can). But if asked I will always give an honest answer, for example she recently saw a local military funeral (as a result of Afganistan) and asked about soliders – which led to a conversation about war. I think knowing is better than uncertainty as meg always seems more relaxed when she has a reason, and we rarely revisit issues. But we also emphasise every day that we are here to protect her so she knows if anything is too much we can step in and take over. Don’t know if any of that helps, but hugs anyway. Clair xx
That is so hard, and I hate to say that I have no words of wisdom for you. But I will help put the word out – I’m going to share this on FB right now. I hope you get some helpful responses!
I can’t say much because my LO is only 3yo, but I do have to say you handled that beautifully. I may find myself in the same situations someday, as my son is as curious about the world as he can possibly be and I explain just about everything to him.
I’ve never been sure how I felt about the phrase or idea of “protecting their innocence.” Is keeping your child naive about the realities of nature and the world destroying their “innocence”? I think their intentions are the source of innocence and allowing them to know the truths of how the world works isn’t going to destroy those intentions.
I probably allow my son to know about some things others wouldn’t, but I want him to have the knowledge at his fingertips that he wants to have so that he can live life the way he chooses, not me. Certainly, I still filter some information, but perhaps my filter just isn’t as strong.
I think your daughter’s story is beautiful because it is evidence that she is being raised to care about the world and will be equipped with the motivation and know how to continue caring and protecting it. Trust yourself. You will sense when the fear begins to grow too deeply, and you will help her work through that.
It seems to me that you are doing an excellent job of walking through this with your daughter. I don’t think you are going to be able to protect her from all of the scary things in our world. I can still remember as a child, (I am 61 years old….so it was during the Cold War years) I was SO terrified that Russia was going to try and destroy our country with a Nuclear Bomb. I used to beg and plead with my parents to build a bomb shelter in the back yard so we had a safe place to go!! There are so many things in this big old world of ours that are so unpredictable and scary, even for we grown ups…how can we expect our children to not be scared? You and your husband are obviously there for your children…you have given a lot of thought and research into raising your children to be intelligent,caring people ( Just like my daughter, Dionna has done!!). Just keep doing what you are doing…use all of these opportunities to equip your daughter with the information that she needs, the support that she craves and the guidance that is so essential to every child.
Gosh, I don’t know. You have a beautifully sensitive daughter and it sounds to me like you handled it really well. Living in these times is so much harder than when we were kids. We just didn’t fear the things we do now. I imagine as things get worse more and more people, kids alike, will be living with fear. Especially if they are educated, and it sounds as though you are. I think if this is the case then the fear has to spur us to action. Perhaps not much else will. It’s awfully hard to think that our children get exposed to this fear at such a young age, but nice year olds can do marvelous things to help and their passions are strong. I’d say “just be” and see.
I think in the long run, this is really a question of how you view your role as a parent. I strongly believe that it is not my role to keep my child safe, it is to teach her appropriate skills to teach her to keep herself safe. That being said, I take a different view of what is appropriate and inappropriate sharing. The other thing to know is that I have spent my whole life working in child protection and baby daddy is a police officer, sooo, if we want to talk about anything relating to our day at dinner, our 4 year old is over exposed (at least by a lot of people’s standards). She hears about parents who do bad things to their children, about people who do bad things to one another. Its a part of the life that each of us lives, and so, we discuss it. We have toned it down some since the night she asked daddy to please not burn her skin off in the bathtub (there had been a case that one of us had recently where exactly that occurred…) But over all she knows what we do, and why we do it. We answer the questions she asks in the best way that we can. But, a big portion of that is to listen to what the question asked is, and answer that. Most often she is happy with a simple answer to her simple question, if she wants more information she will ask another question. That is how we address the last question you asked. Something I tell staff where I work all the time. Listen to the question, answer the question asked and only the question asked.
I am a deeply spiritual person and have definitely contemplated your questions as well. Here’s thing thing: I don’t believe in fear. I personally believe that God/Spirit/Universe (what have you) works through people… which means that it will give people the ideas needed to solve the many problems that our society faces today… including the bees and the warming and what have you.
My oldest is 6.5, so not quite as old as your oldest, but I will say that I do greatly shield her from the news at this point. I mean, I shield myself from the news to great extent because it is pretty much all fear all the time. I don’t believe that we need to expose ourselves to the world consciousness of fear. We who are compassionate, empaths, are already aware of world fear simply by living our daily lives. The media just makes that worse.
I think to the extent that your daughter is exposed to realities of our world as it is (through friends/media/what have you), you can convey to her that we humans are brilliant – we have divine ideas, each one of us – and that no problem is unsolvable. You can encourage her for now and the future to always open up her mind and heart to see if any ideas occur to her. This will make her feel empowered… not scared.
Hope this helps a little. Hugs to you!
Gosh, I’m overwhelmed with your amazing responses – thank you all so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I feel very supported and heard 🙂 I think the thrust is that we can’t ‘protect’ our children and as mamas that is what we want to do, but we are here to help them deal with the things that come up in life that are not pleasant.
@Joxy: Thanks Joxy, I found this to be particularly helpful ” I think as parents it is our job to help our children manage the fear they feel and enable them to develop skills in which they can eventually learn to deal with fear themselves.”
@Clair (Danigirl): Thanks for sharing your experience, Clair. I found this “I think knowing is better than uncertainty as meg always seems more relaxed when she has a reason, and we rarely revisit issues.” to be true of our DD too. So that gives me reassurance.
@Dionna @ Code Name: Mama: You are wonderful Dionna – so caring and you did indeed put the word out and bring in some words of wisdom – thank you!
@Acacia @ Be Present: Thank you Acacia; I wish you well on your parenting journey too. This phrase reached out to me “I think their intentions are the source of innocence and allowing them to know the truths of how the world works isn’t going to destroy those intentions.” That’s beautiful and helps me to feel calmer 🙂
@Ruth Mitchell: Thank you for sharing your experiences Ruth; amazing how we can remember some of these childhood fears. This was particularly poignant for me “There are so many things in this big old world of ours that are so unpredictable and scary, even for we grown ups…how can we expect our children to not be scared?” Such a simple truth – thank you 🙂
@Melodie: Thank you Melodie. You wrote “I think if this is the case then the fear has to spur us to action. Perhaps not much else will.” Well maybe that is the energy of this generation; it’s a shame, but if positive and meaningful action takes place then that is a good thing.
@Rebecca: Rebecca, that was a powerful response – thank you. This part “Listen to the question, answer the question asked and only the question asked.” was a great reminder of meeting kids where they are at. I have found in the past that a one word answer can suffice and I need to remember that in the future.
@Katherine Havener: A beautifully written response from the heart – thank you Katherine. I liked your take on fear very much. And this part “You can encourage her for now and the future to always open up her mind and heart to see if any ideas occur to her. This will make her feel empowered… not scared.” I can certainly take on board 🙂