So I was reading MyTwoDollars.com today and saw a post about a topic J. and I have discussed many times. In fact, I also had a long and interesting conversation about this with my little sis a couple months ago. The article discusses the wisdom of talking honestly and openly to your kids about hard things that are happening in the world, your family, or your personal lives.
So J. and I don't have kids yet (next year we'll start trying!), but as a teacher I see the impact adults' lives have on little kids. Kids live with adults mistakes every day. They live in an adult run world. They don't understand exactly how this world work yet and or even understand that our mistakes are just part of being human. During our Friday community circle time at school, kids have brought up the fact that they want (really, need) to know what is happening in life. They've told stories of listening in on parent fights, watching the news, or hearing financial problems discussed in hushed tones. And they don't know how to feel about that! Most kids need to know more and want to have the event explained to them. They (and I relate to this!) worry more about what they don't clearly know than about what is explained to them in a way they can understand.
When J. and I have kids, we plan on taking to them about family problems. We plan on letting them know that even though Mom and Dad might not get along every day, we still love each other! We want to help them understand things that are happening in the news, even though those events might be unsettling. We want them to know life isn't always a bed of roses but you can trust Mom and Dad to tell you the truth and help you understand it. We'll talk on their level, in a calm way, to help them understand the situation. We'll let them know they have an open and safe world at home!
This is what I do with my students (to a certain degree!! I leave iffy topics for parents to discuss!). I think my kids realize I trust them to understand and now have higher expectations of them. I think it helps them see they are a part of life, not just something to be protected and sheltered.