They Don’t Understand and It’s Your Fault

There’s a funny little anecdote in Josh Ireland’s book, Churchill & Son, about Churchill’s grandson (born to his first and only son, Randolph). Born in 1940, the younger Winston had spent much of his early life with his grandfather and namesake not just in power but at the center of the universe. He had come to take this as a fact of existence. The sky was blue, the grass was green, and the world revolved around Grandpa Winston.

So you can imagine it was bewildering for the boy when the elder Winston was suddenly and unexpectedly tossed out of power in the election of 1945. Innocently, he asked his parents what this meant. Was Clement Attlee, Churchill’s successor, his new grandfather? 

The point is: Kids don’t understand upheaval. They struggle contextualizing newness. The world is a bewildering, confusing place, whether you are 7, 17, or 77. Need proof? 7% of adults think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. It shouldn’t surprise us that kids come up with confusing, even terrifying explanations of the world as a coping mechanism for uncertainty. 

In fact, it can’t surprise us. 

We have to anticipate and over-explain. We can’t let our children assume what the divorce means, what the events on the news might mean, what our new job will entail. We have to take the time to paint the fullest picture possible. We have to answer their questions…we have to make them ask questions.

They don’t understand. It’s our most important job as parents in moments of instability and uncertainty to solve that problem. To help them understand.

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