The best way to talk to young children about the abortion referendum, according to an Irish psychotherapist

Thursday 24th May 2018 - Stella O’Malley , Irish Independent View Article Here

Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley feels that Irish parents of children under-12 should feel comfortable to discuss the abortion referendum with their children on some level.

Ms O’Malley, author “Cotton Wool Kids”, says most of all, the time leading up to the abortion referendum on May 25, is an opportunity for Irish parents to help their children foster their critical thinking.

“This is a huge opportunity for critical thinking to be fostered between the seven- and twelve-year-olds of Ireland.”

It’s also an opportunity to “encourage the child to think for themselves, and also encourage the child to think that there are inappropriate images all over the place. They’re going to be faced with inappropriate images online many, many times over the next ten years, and you could say as a parent ‘you know the way I’m always bleating on about parental controls… it’s because I don’t want you to see certain images that maybe you’ve already just recently seen’.”

“It gives them a context to what this famous word ‘inappropriate’ is, and it gives them a way to realise ‘oh I see what she’s talking about. It’s not necessarily funny or anything, it’s actually not very nice.”

“It also gives your children an opportunity to get an insight into extremism, into politics, into the way people will use scare tactics to try to convince you over to their side. And to how it’s their job to hold their own, and listen to points, and not necessarily go on one side or the other. So you can really, really empower your children with this. So long as you say, if you’re scared, you’ve got a choice to look away just like you will have online.”

Ms O’Malley told Newstalk presenter Ciara Kelly yesterday that children under 7 or 8 years of age will be happy with a simplistic conversation around the abortion referendum.

“It’s different for different ages. Up until the ages of 7 or 8 really it’s quite a simplistic conversation where you talk about maybe mammy had a pregnancy, a person had a pregnancy, and they didn’t want it to continue, and so they went to the doctor and the doctor fixed it up.”

The conversation can become more complex for children between the ages of seven and 13, Ms O’Malley advises.

“Yeah, a lot of parents strongly believe that there hand has been forced into conversations that they didn’t want.”

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