I'm Totally Down With a 6-Year-Old's Hate List

hate listDelia Lloyd may be a mom, but she knows she's still navigating adulthood. Thank goodness she has her kids to help her, and she writes about it at the Real Delia, so we can grow up with them.

In honor of Mother's Day, Delia shares what it's like to talk about tough topics like evil and hate with your kids:

My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that her best friend had a “hate list.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s a list of all the people in the world that she hates.”

“Don’t make one yourself,” I said quickly. “That’s not nice.”

“Yeah, but I only have one person on it,” she responded.

“I don’t care. You’ll hurt someone’s feelings.”

She looked up at me, wide-eyed. “But it’s Hitler.”

Pause.

At first -- of course -- I laughed. But then I kept on thinking about it and I realized that not everyone would find it funny that their 6-year-old knew about Hitler. I remember once writing a post about talking to your kids about death, which dealt with my (failed) attempts to explain death in any meaningful and convincing way to my then 5-year-old daughter. The post also touched upon our visit as a family to The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. And I got more than a few comments from people who thought that it was really bad parenting on my part to have exposed such a young child to the Holocaust. As one woman wrote in the comments section: “I think we have a parental duty to protect children from even knowing about the worst aspects of evil.”

Do we?

In my case, my husband is Jewish, we’ve been to Israel as a family, and my 9-year-old could practically write a book on World War II at this point. So somehow I don’t really think that we could “hide” the Holocaust from my daughter, even if we wanted to. But I also feel strongly that the Holocaust is quite recent world history. And at some point children need to know that the Holocaust happened in order to comprehend its magnitude and horror and very possibility, if for no other reason than to guard against it happening again.

But the Holocaust isn’t the only evil we’ve talked about with our kids. I moved to London 3 1/2 years ago, the day before a group of home grown British terrorists was arrested for a “liquid bomb plot” at Heathrow airport. The next day, as we tried to settle our new home/country/life, there were TVs on everywhere we went. People were jittery. My then 5-year-old son asked me what was going on. Should I have lied to him? Perhaps. But I didn’t.

As I wrote about subsequently, 9/11 and all that has come since has permanently changed the way Westerners perceive and experience terrorism. It’s no longer something that happens “over there.” It is woven into the very fabric of our daily lives through things like threat levels (ours just went up to “severe”), how much freedom of speech is permissible at universities, even what kinds of liquids we can bring on board an airplane. Living -- as we now do -- in that sort of environment alters the equation for what kids need to become aware of at an early age.

You could also extend this line of argument to encompass natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti (while understanding that this is a very different form of tragedy). Is it distressing for a 6-year-old to learn that 150,000 people just died in an earthquake because they happened to live in the wrong place at the wrong time? Sure it is. But my daughter and I have talked about Haiti too. Whether that’s to make her appreciate just how fortunate she is or to begin to teach her about charitable giving, it’s a worthwhile lesson, IMHO.

So, at the end of the day? I’m totally down with the I Hate Hitler list.

For more "real" from Delia Lloyd, visit her site: Real Delia

Follow her on Twitter: @realdelia

But how about you? When do you think we ought to begin discussing the reality of “unnatural” deaths with your children? And are there certain topics that ought to remain taboo?

Our series of mom bloggers we love runs throughout May in honor of Mother's Day. Click here to see them all.  

 

Image via mickyc82/Flickr

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Em Chappell-Root

Hiding tragedies from your kids just make them harder to handle when they finally encounter them. War, famine, disease, poverty, natural disasters, car accidents, etc, they are part of reality. The goal of a parent isn't to wrap your child up in cotton candy and insulate them from the world, it is to raise your child to be a well adjusted, well informed, thinking, feeling, responsible individual. Hiding the fact that the world isn't all rainbows and lollipops isn't doing them any favors.

JAIRA... JAIRATRACI

I have been teaching my kids about stuff like that. I taught my oldest about Jeffery dahmer when he was in first grade. Knowing what kind of horrible people there are in the world helps them be aware of the people around them in my opinion.

Melis... Melissa1508

I agree with the above posters.  I don't think it's at all beneficial to hide things from your children.  If you choose to do that, that's fine too.  Each parents feels differently about different things.  No judgment here.  For me, though, I think knowledge is a good thing for them to have.  My four year old knows about death in her own way and as long as she's comfortable and it makes her feel better, I'm fine with it.

poshkat poshkat

You are right. Hiding the facts of life, in this case death is not something to hide from our children. I'm Jewish, grew up in Israel. Most of my great aunts and uncles survived WWII. My grand parents, most of the older generation. It was something I knew about from a young age, yes, even grisly details. We had a family friend who would roll up his sleeves when we went over and showed his numbers they gave him at one of the concentration camps. My son is only 5, I don't feel the need to tell him yet, neither does my husband. If he asks I wont lie to him and tell him about how his great parents survived and how we are still effected by it today.

the4m... the4mutts

I agree. Age apropiate explanation of death and tragedy will only benefit your kids in the future. It doesn't serve none well to lie to children about anything.

Felly... FellyScarlett

Haha the people who thought it was wrong to tell your kids about the holocaust are definitely not Jewish. I watched Schindler's list when I was 4 years old.

MsRkg MsRkg

I think you should talk about any topic with your kid (good or bad) as soon as they show an interest or curiosity in it. Hiding them from the facts and real life, and keeping then in an insulated bubble does nothing but hinder their exposure to the real world. And think about it would you rather them be learning these things from you or from some other child or adult.

Megankae Megankae

We live in Germany. Weve been to concentration camps and my son is only two.

The world is not all sugar and rainbows, I don't think we need to pretend it is.

Bad things happen, and it's terrible; but good things happen too.

I see no reason to lie to my child about things like that (lord knows my mother never did, she was always honest about it, heck she even took us to see Life Is Beautiful when it came out and I was all of 7 years old).

nonmember avatar moushka

What a timely post! We are dealing with this question today after a friend's suicide. He left three young children. How to explain to a 3-year-old that her friends' daddy will never come back? Never lie to your children. If they can't believe you, who can they trust?

Elisha Hannafey DeMaria

Never lie to your children- they will always remember it... I love your honesty & methods. How else will children learn empathy & stranger danger?

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