There are many controversial history episodes that are still relevant and actively discussed today. I don't mean cruel or bloody stories, rather episodes that different people have opposite viewpoints about, or episodes that have a dimension that is not widely known to public.

They are, for example, most of Irish history, or slavery in the US, or history of the USSR, and so on.

How to introduce such topics to a child? What is the degree that parent should include his viewpoint?

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    wouldn't that be measured by the knowledge and understandability of the child? with a 5 years old I would adopt a soft side ... a 12 years old I would go nuts.
    – balexandre
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 8:52
  • I have to admit I don't understand the question. What is controversial about oppression, slavery and totalitarian communism? It's evil and horrible, yes... but controversial? Did I miss something in history class here? :-) Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:08
  • @Lennart Regbero - Irish history. Yes, they were opressed, but, you know, plenty of terrorist acts where innocent people died. US slavery. Socially acceptable institute (by significant portion of middle 19th century US population of any race) and profitable business. USSR - you just don't hear that talk about effective manager Stalin (in some Russian history handbooks) and the biggest tragedy of the 20th century which was a collapse of the USSR (quote by Putin). Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 22:03
  • Ah well, it might be controversial in the sense that you have people in your vicinity that has the wrong stance, yes. In that case I'd just teach my kids to think for themselves. Commented May 15, 2011 at 19:05

4 Answers 4


I have a policy of answering any questions I have been asked, to the best of my ability. From therein, I am then asked about the morality of such events, and we have some cracking conversations based on morality, dilemmas and history.

Once a kid understands death, its finality and in parts its brutality, I think you can really enjoy parenting, educating by getting them to examine the different sides to an argument. To be frank, I have had my own eyes widened by approaching my kids' education this way, as I am now viewing historical events differently.

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    +1 This mirrors the approach I got from my mother, and she later explained to me: don't intentionally introduce such a topic, but mentally be ready for any such topic to come up... have a plan of how you would handle rough questions like that showing up all of a sudden.
    – cabbey
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 16:00

I'd first ask why would you need to? If this was for a history class, then you could give your view or teach them to research the topic, a fine time to learn how to use a library if they are old enough. If the topic is one you are knowledgable about you could have some conversations about the topic, looking into the causes and effects, if not then it is also a good time to learn together. Another trip to the library! Yes, I love the library and I think kids should get more exposure to it as a learning opportunity.

Bringing it up when its not necessary might be a bit much. It also depends on the age, maybe gloss over the general trend with a younger child or try to examine the cause and effect with an older one. There are lots of books, or even TV shows for different ages about historical settings that present the topics in age appropriate settings. I remember seeing many of the TV shows when I was young about kids time travelling to different periods, or a main cast of characters appearing in different time periods in stories; although they are rather dated by today's standards I am sure there are updated versions. Check out your local library!

Doing research on topics is both a learning experience for kids, asking them what they know about a subject is a good place to start, see what their interest is and try to tailor your response appropriately. Adding your own viewpoint is something every parent needs to decide, this goes for religion and politics as well, either you can bring up your child with your views only or give them yours and let them decide.


You can give watered down versions that are age appropriate. You can also browse your local library for kids books on the subject, to at least see how others have structured a story for that age bracket.


I'd start out by acknowledging the controversy. Say "Different people think different things about this. Some people think ....., but other people think .....". Then if the child is still interested you can start to explain why they disagree, and maybe explain your own point of view.

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