The Big Discussions: How Young Is Too Young?

I have a question for you parents out there:  How young is too young to have the big conversations with your kids? I ask this because I have a 7 year old, and though he still seems young and “just a kid”, he also seems pretty mature to me at times. So I treat him like that.

A few weeks ago he mentioned that in school they were talking about World War II, and that one student said the name Hitler. He wanted to know who that was and what had happened during World War II. And because I want him to be as informed as he can be, I told him a bit. I briefly described concentration camps as horrible places – and I told him about the rooms filled with eyeglasses and suitcases that had been taken from the people who’d been forced to go to the camps – and told him that many, many people had been killed there. I felt like he could handle that kind of information, and I didn’t go into too much detail.

I think the teacher in me came out, but I also think I wanted him to know more than I knew at that age, and even when I was much older. You see, when I was 18, I went on an exchange to the Netherlands, for the summer months. While there I went to Amsterdam and went through the Anne Frank House, and when about 40 of us teens from all over the world came together at a camp, it was a former concentration camp where we stayed for a week. I remember watching a presentation about the camp – Westerbork – while there. All the while, I was not profoundly affected by the experiences, like I would be now. I didn’t really know much about Anne Frank, other than she had written a diary that I had seen in my grandparents’ house when I was much younger. And though I knew about the Holocaust and concentration camps, I didn’t know THAT MUCH. I should have known more. I should have taken it upon myself to learn more before I left for my exchange, since I was 18 and therefore old enough to take in and absorb that information. So I blame no one but myself.

Maybe I’m trying to make up for that ignorance by making sure my son is NOT ignorant about things that happened in history. But am I starting too young? Am I giving him too much information too early? Am I talking to him about things that he shouldn’t know of until he’s older? I don’t know.


A few days ago we had another “grown up” conversation. This time it was about God and Jesus. It started because I told him that he and his sister would finally be baptized by my parents’ minister before the end of the summer, when he retires.

“Hey Zander, we are going to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s minister to get you baptized.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’ll get water on your head, and then later on you can join the church.”

“Oh, what religion are we?”

“I’m Presbyterian. Grandma and Grandpa are Presbyterian. You will be Presbyterian, unless you decide later that you want to be something else.”

“Can you tell me about God and Jesus?”

And so I told him as much as I thought he needed to know, and as much as he could absorb.

Now he is asking to go to church, which I love because, again, I want him to know as much as he can about everything there is to know…and that is appropriate for his age. We haven’t gone to church as a family – partly because my husband has never been a church-goer, and was not raised to be, which is COMPLETELY the opposite of my family members, who faithfully attend church every Sunday, but also because I have thought, until now, that the kids are a little too young. I know they will not be able to sit still long enough to get to Sunday School, and they probably will be hesitant about going to Sunday School without me or Daddy. I am worried I’ll spend the entire time trying to rein them in and will not only not be able to listen to the sermon but will also be embarrassed by my inability to keep them quiet, calm, and still. The other glitch is that I work at the radio station on Sundays, and so I couldn’t go…and leaving the husband to handle both kids at church would be a very nasty thing for me to do. However, we need to figure something out because Zander’s requesting to go, and I don’t think he’s too young to start now.

sun cross

Our last big discussion, a few days ago as well (Zander’s been on a roll this week!), was brought on because of something going on this Friday. My grandfather passed away in January, and though we had a funeral for him at the time, we couldn’t bury him because the ground was frozen. So the burial is planned for Friday. My parents mentioned it to me, and I asked Zander if he’d like to come with me and Zoey. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, but my parents are thinking it would be too scary of an experience for them. Both of my kids were there for the burial of my grandmother, a year and a half ago, and they were not freaked out at all. It is, after all, to them, a box being lowered into the ground. I honestly don’t think it would scare him or freak him out (and Zoey’s only 3 so she doesn’t understand what is happening).

Anyway, when we were talking about it, my son asked me if I’d be sad. Recalling the funeral service months ago, he said, “Remember in the church, when I asked if you were sad and you said no, but then you were crying and crying?”

“Yes, honey, and I was sad. But you don’t need to worry about me.”

His response: “You’re my mother. My life is all about worrying about you.”  I asked him what he meant by that, because, let’s face it, as sweet as it is to have my 7 year old son think about me, I don’t want him worrying about me, for any reason.

He said, “Well, I worry if you’re okay, or if you’re hurt. I don’t know.”

See? Pretty grown up sometimes.  I love that he’s inquisitive, but I also want him to be 7, and all that comes with that: innocence, fun, and carefree times.  Should I be telling him less????




6 thoughts on “The Big Discussions: How Young Is Too Young?

  1. Nope.

    I think if they have questions, they should be answered in their terms. They may not get it at this age but it plants a seed and they will remember it.

    I remember when my son was 10, he said that war was cool and couldn’t wait to go. I showed him the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” and he changed his views. I wasn’t trying to say that the military is bad but let’s keep it real.

    Of course, what I say may be skewed as I was forced to watch “Roots” when it came on in 1977 as an 8-year-old.

  2. I like Patrick’s answer. My son is 14 and I keep thinking about showing him Private Ryan, but it’s the first 20 minutes that has prevented me from doing so. And yet there are other things I’ve done with him that other mothers might not even dream of. Every kid and every situation is different.

    You know best. 🙂

    Thanks for linking up with KetchupWithUs. Be sure to come back on the 15th for the last one.

  3. Shannon – you should be proud to have such an inquisitive child – but even more so he trusts and knows you well enough to ask questions. My oldest daughter didn’t know much about the Holocaust until she read a book for school about it. It kept her up that night. It was a horror, and worst of all, it was real, not like scary movies.

    The only person who knows well enough is you. You might sometimes tell “too much” or “not enough,” but who is to say, really? We listen, we react. I’ve had conversations with my youngest lately I didn’t think I would have for a while. But she put her trust in me. Kids are never too young (or, I hope, too old) to do that.

    • Thank you Eli! I love it that he asks so many questions, and I just hope that I’m giving him just enough of the right answers. 🙂
      (I thought I had responded to this earlier…I am so frazzled these days!)

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