29 Apr

Book Review: Talking with children about things that matter, by Sheila and Celia Kitzinger

Talking with children about things that matter by Sheila and Celia Kitzinger, is a wide-ranging discussion about the big issues that bother contemporary parents. Although it was written in 2000, and therefore lacks that important chapter on social media and the internet, the contents of this book are highly applicable to the modern family.

The Kitzingers have surveyed parents and reviewed the literature to look into some really big topics, examining the way parents attempt to instil their own values in their children. The book therefore caused this reader to reflect on her own values and upbringing, and feel both optimistic and pessimistic about my son’s childhood.

Pessimistic because this world seems so much bigger and scarier than the one I grew up in, and the task of fitting my boy with tools and strategies seems insurmountable. In a week when teenagers have bombed marathon runners and a world famous children’s entertainer has been arrested for sexually abusing a child, how do I protect him, and how do I send him out there fit to do good, not harm?

Optimistic because many of the issues I find sticky, such as prejudice, sexuality and the environment, seem more openly and easily tackled by his generation. He takes for granted that men can love other men, that skin colour is no more important than hair colour, and that everyone recycles. That doesn’t mean my work here is done, but we’re off to a good start.

This is not a how-to book, but it opens up new perspectives as well as reviewing some traditional points of view such as the value put on an “obedient” child. It’s sometimes helpful to remember that a child who questions authority as a matter of course is perhaps in a safer place than one who always does as he is told. Especially when you want him to put the lego away and put his shoes on for school.

I would have liked the book to go further on the topic of sexuality, and to have explored the implications of an atheist upbringing in more detail. I closed the book with some deep thoughts and intentions about how I can include my son in discussion, not shelter him from the news, and somehow help him to understand how privileged he is. I don’t have the answers to any of this, but I have a few more clues.