Photo Credit: LEON NEAL/Staff/AFP/Getty Images
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have spoken about their no-secrets policy when it comes to sex, and now they've taken the same approach with Jolie's recent decision to have a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for a gene mutation that put her risk for getting breast cancer at 87 percent.
"We want everything to be on the table and any questions they have, for them to ask," Pitt told Extra at the couple's first post-surgery appearance, adding that they find age-appropriate ways to discuss Jolie's procedures with their six children, who range in age from 4 to 12.
Pitt had previously revealed the family operates in a zone of openness. "There are no secrets at our house," Pitt told USA Weekend. "We tell the kids, 'Mom and Dad are going off to kiss.' They go, 'Eww, gross!' But we demand it."
Is honesty the best policy for families, even for grown-up subjects like cancer and sex? For guidance, we turned to Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"The concept of no secrets is really great, but there's a difference between a secret and a descriptive blow-by-blow," says Breuner. In general, she applauds Brangie's open and truthful parenting style, but says it's important to keep descriptions appropriate for a child's developmental and cognitive stage the way the Jolie-Pitts do. In other words, it's okay to tell a toddler that parents are going to kiss, but save the birds and the bees specifics until they hit double digits.
Breuner adds that a no secrets policy can also be good because it encourages kids to share what's bothering them -- something as simple as a problem at school to as serious as a sexual predator -- as long as parents respond appropriately.
"If you want your kids to tell you the truth you have to couch your response," says Breuner. "If you get seriously mad at your five-year-old for swiping a pack of gum from the grocery store, they might not tell you anything anymore."
Also, Breuner adds that it's okay to keep a few things cagey, such as the truth behind Santa and the Tooth Fairy. "There's so much wonder and joy with a myth like that. It's important for kids to have hope and believe in something they can't understand."