Monday, August 11, 2003

Kids may ask about Kobe

Superstar's case offers opportunity to talk about issues

By Connie Midey
The Arizona Republic

You know that talk with your child you've been putting off, waiting for just the right moment and just the right words?

The Kobe Bryant case might make this the moment, Mom and Dad, ready or not.

And with the Los Angeles Lakers star admitting to adultery, facing a sexual-assault charge and arguing that sex with the alleged victim was consensual, finding the right words could be challenging.

"Here is one of the people touted as being a nice guy," says family counselor Maureen G. Mulvaney, mother of Mayre, 12. "He does a lot for the Ronald McDonald House and other charities, and my daughter knew of him that way."

Parent-child discussions about sex, and parents' answers to their children's blunt questions, don't need to be graphic.

If a child asks what adultery is, Mulvaney would simply say, "Adultery occurs when a married person makes a commitment to someone and says they will be faithful, and then breaks that commitment."

Jonathan Knaupp, a retired professor from Arizona State University, agrees that very young children "are happy with just a little bit of information."

"I can't imagine that most kids, even 7- and 8-year-olds, will ask about rape and adultery," he says. "They're exposed to these issues all the time if they watch the news or go to any kind of show.

"This would be a better opportunity to sit down with your kids and say, 'He made a really, really big mistake, and she made a really, really big mistake,' and point out the negative impact. Talk to them about how situations will come up in your life and, just on the spur of the moment, you might do something you shouldn't. It's hard to understand what the consequences might be later."

Another question: "What is rape?" also can be answered without telling kids more than they are ready for.

Mulvaney's response, "This is an issue of forcing someone to do something that they choose not to do. If someone says 'no,' whether they say 'no' loudly or they say 'no' quietly, 'no' means 'no.' "

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