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When & How to Tell Children the Brutal Truth of the Nature?

Updated on November 9, 2008

Last night I read the book Hedgehog at Brenda's bedtime, though it is actually not a story but an education book for older children. I thought it might be too difficult for a three-year-old, but Brenda was attracted by the hedgehog picture on the cover and insisted to read it.

When I read

If the den is disturbed in any way during the first few days after birth, the sow usually eats her young. At this age, the hoglets would not survive being moved.

Then I explained to her that sow means mummy hedgehog. She was shocked and she asked me why their mummy eats them.

I continued

By eating them, the mother gains the strength to breed again. If the hoglets are over a week old when danger threatens, their mother will carry them to a new den in her mouth.

Brenda was very upset and she said, "I don't want their mummy to eat them! because I like babies" She kept asking me the same question "Why their mummy eats them?" Next morning, she picked up the book, turned to that newborn hoglet page, and asked me again "Why their mummy eats them?" !"$%^&*

It makes me think about when and how to tell children the brutal truth of the nature.

Where meat comes from?

If you don't tell your kids the fact of this in a right time and in a right way, you may accidentally turn them into vegetarians. When my cousin was a toddler, I jokely told him that the pork on the table might be from the piglet in the story I just read for him. If he was shocked he didn't show. But he didn't eat the pork that day, and hasn't eaten meat ever since until he is a teenager. My mother always blames me for that. By reflection, I think I could tell him that pork is from live pig, but shouldn't have referred it to any animal character in stories.

So when it's time to tell my own child the fact, I just tell Brenda one day when she's eating chicken. I said it as a matter of fact without referring to any animal character. It seemed that the fact didn't affect her appetite for chicken.

Everybody dies

One day outside Tesco, Brenda pointed an old lady hunched over a crutch and asked me, "Mummy, why she is so small?"

"People grows up when they are young like you and starts shrinking when they are getting old, and they die when they are very very old." I replied. Later, I told her that everybody dies, and that somebody die young when they cross roads and not careful enough (by not holding their mummy's hand).

One day she looked left and right and rushed across a road and cried on the other side of the road, "La lalala la, I didn't die! There is no car."

On dinner table, sometimes if she refuses to eat vegetable, I would say "Vegetables make you grow up". Brenda would make connection between this comment with death.

"I don't want to shrink! I don't want to die!" and then she eats all the vegetables.

To conclude from my experience, there is no right or wrong time/way to tell kids the brutal truth of nature. Just bear in mind, say it as a matter of fact, and don't associate it to any of their favourite animal characters or person.

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