Children go through that phase where curiosity becomes the centre of their universe. Right now, we are exactly in that phase with Crystabel – she won’t stop asking questions until she gets the answer she wants!
But when your little one’s questions leave you speechless, what’s the best approach to take in these instances?
I took some time to Google the topmost common question stumpers and how to best answer them, according to experts from various fields. Check them out now:
“How are children born?”
With pre-schoolers, it may be helpful to form your explanation into a story, with a beginning, middle and an end. Susan Lipkins, a New York-based child psychologist, suggests that parents follow this plotline: The mummy and daddy make a baby, the baby grows inside mummy’s womb, and the baby comes out when he’s ready.
According to Lipkins, this helps children understand that creating and growing a baby is a process that happens over time. For pregnant mums, this technique also helps to reassure your child that your pregnancy won’t last forever, and when the baby grows big enough in your womb, it will come out and your child will be “promoted” to big brother/sister status.
“Why do boys and girls go to different washrooms?”
You can start by stating the difference between the genitals of boys and girls using proper terms, and how this inevitably leads to different ways of peeing. For example, “Boys have a penis, so they pee standing up. Girls have a vagina, so they pee sitting down.”
Dr Cara Fernandez, Executive Director of the Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao SJ Center for Psychology Services explains, “Just give them concrete, observable and simple answers. Say it as it is. You don’t call an arm by another name, right? It also demystifies the whole penis-vagina thing.”
“Why don’t we want others to see our private parts?”
Hal Runkel, family therapist and author of “ScreamFree Parenting”, advises parents to take this opportunity to set some safe boundaries for their kids about what body parts are off-limits to outsiders.
Explain to your kids that we use them for things that we don’t do in public, like going to the bathroom. That is why they are called “private parts” in the first place, and we cover them with a swimsuit at the pool or close the door when we go to the toilet. Also emphasise to them that they should not show their private parts to anyone except mummy and daddy, or a trusted adult like teachers in preschool during bath/toilet time or a doctor in the office. Make it clear that they should let you know immediately when someone tries to touch them in an unusual way.
“What happens when you die?”
Talking about death to kids may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is a conversation that parents ultimately need to have with their children – especially when a family member passes on.
As a start, you can be literal in the medical sense by telling them how all of the organs slow down and over time fail to function normally to keep our body going. Once this is established, you can bring in your religious and cultural beliefs about death, the soul and the afterlife.
Do also take time to address the feelings associated with death, and that it’s normal to feel sad that Grandma won’t be around anymore. Dr James Brush, a child psychologist in Cincinnati, advices, “Sometimes just reflecting the feeling behind the question is enough. Sometimes, they are not looking for information – they’re looking for empathy.”
“Why are there so many languages in the world?”
Hearing people around her speak a language that’s different than what she’s used to may sound odd to your child, but it is important to explain how language is constantly evolving over time. Take this opportunity to tell her about the different languages around the world and the rich lessons she can learn from people of various cultures. While you are having this conversation with her, do point out that some English words that she’s been using originated from other languages too – for example, pasta (Italian) and ballet (French).
“Why is that man/woman poor?”
Brenda Nixon, author of “The Birth to Five Book”, says that children have a limited frame of reference and believe that everyone live the same way as them.
When answering this question, parents can also use this as an anchor to teach their children about empathy and treating others with respect. You might want to say something like this: “I’m glad you noticed him/her. There are many reasons why people are poor or homeless. They may have lost their jobs or are unable to take care of themselves due to an illness. But we should still treat them with respect and offer to help them like donating clothes and toys that you no longer need.”
“Why do adults sometimes cry when they are happy?”
Here’s the simplest way to explain this to your child: “When kids feel happy, they usually express this by jumping up and down, or yelling. However, with adults, the emotions we go through are a bit more complicated: When we’re really happy, we can also feel a little sad at the same time. Sometimes, crying just happens.”
Dr Darsak Sanghavi, author of “A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician’s Tour of the Body”, says that kids do not have the same range of emotions as adults, so the logic behind this can baffle them. He advises parents to use this conversation to encourage their kids to express feelings in words. Tell them that it’s okay to cry, but it’s also important to tell mum and dad what’s wrong. “Understanding why you have a particular emotional response will also help your child become more sensitive to others’ feelings,” he adds.
“Why does [Insert friend’s name] has more toys than me?”
This might sound like a tricky question, but parents should take it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the concept of money.
Sharon Lechter, founder of payyourfamilyfirst.com, an organisation dedicated to improving financial literacy, advises parents to explain to their kids where money comes from, and how mum and dad opts to spend, save or give it away. Talk to your kids about what constitutes a want and need, and emphasise that having more toys won’t necessarily make your family happier or better than that of your child’s friend.
What other “difficult” questions have your kids asked you – and how did you answer them? Share with us by leaving a comment below!