I am normally blogging about puberty and all of its perils and pitfalls, but recently, another life event has taken place. Unfortunately, there was a death in the family: my husband’s 98 year old grandmother passed away last night. It was not sudden, but rather expected. We told our daughters, 9, 8 and 4 about what happened when we got home. There were plenty of questions that we had to answer, but I was left with a lingering question: should I take my older daughters to the funeral and how should I talk with my children about death?
I decided to consult with my Rabbi about this issue for a little perspective. He gave me a little history and started out by saying “When we were young nobody took kids to funerals. It was a big, mysterious thing and it was kind of hush hush. Today the pendulum has swung, and we advocate talking openly to your kids about death, especially in this situation, where it is a life cycle event rather than sudden and unexpected.”
And since I think about puberty ALOT, I was taken aback by how similar his words were to what we talk about in Turning Teen. Puberty is also a life cycle event. In the past, talking about puberty and sex was rather hush hush, and now we are trying to swing the pendulum in the other direction, toward open dialogue. Puberty, too, is expected and predictable, and talking about it before it happens helps to prepare kids for what is to to come.
Sex, too, if not discussed, gives a message to our children that this is a taboo subject that is not to be discussed. Like death, the more information you give, the more you prepare your children for what is to come. When you become their source of information, they will come to you with questions. And just like sex, there are so many images of death in the media that are not an accurate portrayal of what happens in real life. If your children can be included in the process of grieving, and see the way we honor a life, this sets them up for a healthy understanding of this part of the cycle of life. This could not be more true for the topics we discuss in Turning Teen; when we stress that the purpose of puberty is a necessary part of the life cycle that allows us to create more people, this opens the door for open and honest conversations to follow. That is a gift to our children.