What Should We Tell Kids?
Dear Rabbi Twerski,
There was a lively discussion on our forum over here recently about whether or not we should tell children how babies are born, and at what age, and how much to reveal, etc...
If the Rav has time to read some of the points of view that were expressed on the forum (my own included), the Rav will see that there are many good points brought up in each direction, and we would greatly appreciate some guidance from the Rav on this issue if possible.
Some people feel it is best to hide it for as long as possible (sometimes until the wedding). This saves the children from thinking about things they don't need to, and from the risks of masturbation, addiction, starting up with the opposite gender, etc... Others hold that this approach is too dangerous because children will find out on their own in a worse way, and not get the Hadracha that parents could give. Also, they may end up not trusting their parents since they weren't told - or they were lied to about this issue all the years.
The answer to this question may depend on how sheltered the children are, and what are the chances of them finding out on their own.
But even if we should tell them, should we try to get away with as few details as possible? And at what age? etc...
This week's parsha with Er and Onan, Yehudah and Tamar, Yosef and Eshes Potifar, is just one example of why this issue is so pressing. Any child who learns this parsha will have many questions... How do we respond if asked? Or should we pre-empt and explain?
We would be honored if the Rav could share his thoughts with us on this sensitive issue.
Thank you for your guidance and Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Twerski responds:
Just several months ago, Sara Diament M.A, wrote a booklet "Talking to Your Children About Intimacy: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Parents." It is worth reading.
"Talking to Your Children About Intimacy" can be purchased on Amazon here.
Incidentally, while we are on the subject, Rabbi Twerski once suggested to me (as a parent) to read the book called "Building Self-Esteem in Children" by Patricia H. Berne. This is a wonderful book to help us ensure that we give our children what is perhaps the most important ingredient of all in a healthy upbringing: Self-Esteem. When children have a healthy self-esteem, they are also much less prone to addictions later on in life.