Walk The Talk

Have you had The Talk yet?

No, not the birds and bees parley (although it may lead to that). The Clinton Talk.

A conversation with a child about private acts. A discussion about honesty. About leadership. About adultery. About forgiveness.

Most of us would prefer to avert our gaze. Cover our ears. The topics are awkward enough between adults.

But parents, in particular, if you haven't done it already, the time is ripe. Take a deep breath. Get over the discomfort. It's our job. That's what Yosef Abramowitz counsels: We are responsible for the moral education of our kids.

"If your child is wondering about what's going on, wouldn't you rather they heard it from you? Not from the Internet. Not from friends. Not from the schools. Not from the media. It's up to you to put it in a moral context," says Mr. Abramowitz, the editor of the Jewish Family & Life Web zine: www.jewishfamily.com

To assist such discussions, Abramowitz, has compiled "Beyond Scandal: The Parents' Guide to Sex, Lies, and Leadership." The book, available only from online bookstores at this time, contains articles with a Judeo-Christian perspective on the scandal.

Are half-lies sometimes permissible? Is adultery OK for presidents? What about gossip and the power of words to injure? If you're popular, is wrongdoing acceptable?

Like many parents, Abramowitz thought his four-year-old daughter was oblivious to the events. But in January, she wandered downstairs sleepy-eyed during the State of the Union address and asked: "Did the president tell the truth yet?"

How you approach the subject depends on the child. For a four-year-old, says Abramowitz, "you might begin by asking, 'Have you heard anything about the president?' What have you heard?' "

If a child hasn't heard anything, you don't have to jump headlong into a discussion of physical evidence. But don't duck the scandal either, he says. Provide a framework for understanding the news he or she is going to hear. Abramowitz suggests: "It looks like the president of the United States lied to me and you and has done some very bad things. He wants us to forgive him. What do you think we should do?"

If you're talking to teens, ask them what they've heard. Ask them if they have any questions. If you get monosyllabic responses, Abramowitz suggests telling them what you know and think. Then follow their lead. "You may need to talk about the details, he warns. "Some parents will use code words. Some will use the Starr report. But the point is to help them dissect it. Depending on the child, the critical issue may not be the sex, but the lying."

I'm probably a prude. I didn't see the need to download a copy of the Starr report. And I had a hard time embracing Abramowitz's view that this scandal is "a wonderful opportunity," to help children process moral issues. But we had The Talk. Mercifully, our 10-year-old focused on the honesty issue. "If he lied to the whole nation about this, what else did he lie about?" she wondered.

That's another reason to talk to your children one on one. They may surprise you with their clarity and end up helping you to put into perspective this ugly chapter in American history.

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