'Very difficult'

Ashley Estes Kavanaugh discusses talking to her young daughters about allegations against her husband

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh kisses his daughter Margaret as he is joined by his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and daughter Elizabeth, after President Donald Trump announced the judge as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court during an event in the East Room of the White House July 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One of the topics that came up in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s interview Monday night on Fox News was how he and his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, were handling discussing the topic with their daughters. The couple, who married in 2004, have two daughters — Margaret, 13, and Elizabeth, 10.

The girls have been front and center ever since Kavanaugh was announced as President Donald Trump’s nominee in July. The children were at the White House as their father accepted the nomination, and they appeared alongside him earlier this month on Capitol Hill as his confirmation hearings got under way. They were even rushed out of the hearing as protesters heckled the judge and her mother thought things had become too tense for the girls to witness.

Ashley fielded Fox News host Martha MacCallum’s question, which was: “How’s this been for the girls, for your family? Give us … whatever you feel comfortable saying about how this has been for you as a family.”

“It’s very difficult to have these conversations with your children, which we’ve had to have … some broader terms for our youngest,” Ashley responded. “But they know Brett and they know the truth and we told them at the very beginning of this process, ‘This will be not fun sometimes. You’re going to hear things. People feel strongly and you need to know that and just remember, you know your dad.’”

Ashley also spoke more generally about the stress her husband’s confirmation process has put on the family as a whole. “This process is incredibly difficult — harder than we imagined, and we imagined it might be hard. But at the end of the day our faith is strong and we know that we’re on the right path.

All of this might have many parents wondering how much should be discussed not only with the Kavanaugh children — but with their own children as news broadcasts and websites have been nearly saturated with coverage about the accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh. There’s no denying the claims are sordid and have been told in graphic detail, but experts say, it’s a parents duty to address what kids may be seeing on TV or online, and put it in proper context.

According to a report by NPR, Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit that advocates for honest sexual health education, points out that parents are children’s “primary sexuality educator.” Therefore, though the topic may be uncomfortable, it’s important to make sure they are informed — particularly if they are inquiring about it. Be an “askable” parent, she advises. Hauser even recommends broaching the subject with children as young as 4 and 5 years old, but to cater it to their sensibilities. She said a good lesson about consent can be taught.

“You see two 4- or 5-year-olds, where one wants to borrow the other one’s crayon and they just grab it,” she told NPR. “And the response that you have is, ‘You have to ask for it. And if that other child says no, you have to respect that and find another way to get a crayon.’ That’s the very beginning of consent education right there.”

Another expert, Karen Rayne, cautions against staying quiet at the risk of allowing children to become partially informed or misinformed. “They’re going to hear whispers and not really have access to full information or the skill set to find that information,” Rayne, a sex educator for the nonprofit UnHushed, said of younger children.

Writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Anita Kulick argued that it’s urgent for parents to talk to their children about the accusations against Kavanaugh — regardless of their personal politics. It’s up to you to speak up because kids are receiving conflicting messages such as boys will be boys, it was high school, they were drunk, or she was asking for it. In other words, our kids are hearing, “You get a pass for immoral, reckless, and illegal behavior if you’re a teen.” The bottom line? You don’t! And your kids need to know that,” Kulick wrote.

And older children like teenagers appear to be talking openly about it. The New York Times spoke with some teens from around the country and several girls reported experiencing a similar culture of drinking and sexually harassment at social gatherings to what is being described by Kavanaugh’s accusers. Others are registering their judgment on the allegations, saying that if claims are true, the misconduct was wrong and should be disqualifying.

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