Q of the Week : Tackling the Touchy Subjects

I had several conversations in the past few days that brought “touchy subjects” up again.  How and when do you tackle the heavy questions with your kids?  Douglas has already had the sex talk, and I’m glad that one’s over with.  However, what do you do when you see a mugshot with the words “wanted for r-a-p-e” on it, and he asks what it means?  What do you say when he asks why Aunt B talks funny?  I know it’s all a matter of choice, but I’m curious how others handle it. 

In the case of the mugshot question, I chose to answer it honestly and briefly.  When it came to Aunt B’s speech patterns (she’s been labeled as “slow” all her life, and has some unusual physical traits) I hedged a bit more in my answers.  I stayed away from familiar labels as much as possible, preferring to talk in generalities like ‘flexible minds’,  and left as many things unsaid as possible.  I want him to get to know her for who she is, and not assume that there are limits of some kind.  I also refused to give any details of the harsh cards she’s been dealt, saying that there were things not appropriate for him to know at this age.

What are your experiences?  Do you always react to opportunities, or proactively sit down and have a deliberate talk about some of the touchy things?