Honesty: that’s one of my ground rules for parenting. I think the more honest we are with children, the better. Especially about the major issues in life like sex and death.
I “honestly” don’t see the big deal about tip-toeing around the truth or beating around the bush. Cooking up stories leads to a lot of stress and distrust.
Of course, honesty doesn’t mean you are insensitive or brutally frank. It does mean that you are in tune with the child’s sensibilities, and you tell the kid the truth in a palatable manner. The way you tell a three-year old about death is infinitely different from the way you tell a ten-year old. You can make it simpler for the younger ones, rather than pushing it under the carpet. You can also get into the details at a later stage in life, rather than dumping everything at one shot and overwhelming the kid.
I dislike the attitude of “protecting” the child. I’ve seen some cases where this “protection” has crumbled in the face of actual death of an ailing one, and the utter shock and disbelief of the kid. Adequately preparing the child so that he/she can handle the inevitable is so important, yet parents avoid this task simply because it makes them uncomfortable.
I’ve had this honesty policy backfire a couple of times in my own experience. Lil D sometimes tells me she wishes I hadn’t told her some things. But then when we discuss it, she admits that it is better this way, and at least she knows the truth. I tell her that these are things she’d hear about anyway, and I’d rather she hears it from me than a third-party. The thing is being honest opens up a whole new level of communication, and we are able to discuss things that we would never have touched upon otherwise.
I guess it’s just the way we’ve been brought up, and the way we’ve brought up Lil D as well. But sometimes, I just want to shake parents and yell at them: Tell your kids the truth, they can handle it, dammit!