The Toughest Interview

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How do you deal with difficult questions children ask?

Where do children come from? Where do people go when they die? Why can’t I drink what you’re drinking? Why don’t you have a big car like the other parents at school? Why can’t we go to the movies every day? Kids ask tough, and sometimes awkward, questions. At times, it is easy to deflect them, especially the embarrassing ones. That isn’t always the right move.

Understand the child’s question first

Before jumping to an explanation when a child asks you a question, ask them what they think the answer is. In that way, you’ll have an idea of what they really want to know because sometimes, all that their question requires is a simple yes or no answer. Don’t respond to their questions with threats. If, for example, they ask a question about sex, don’t follow through with threats. Don’t tell them sex is a very bad thing that only grownups are allowed to talk about. Warnings will only make them rebel or further ignite their curiosity, and make them seek answers from other sources. If they want to know why you’re not as rich as other parents, don’t scold them for asking. If you can’t immediately answer a question, tell them you’ll answer their question later and make sure you do. This will show them that nothing is off-limits for you and will also establish trust.

Be honest

It would be easy to balk when they ask embarrassing or sensitive questions, such as those regarding sex. Answer your child’s questions with honesty. Keep your tone conversational because if they detect embarrassment or discomfort, they’ll develop negative attitudes towards that topic. Honesty also helps reinforce trust; as they grow they will know that they can always count on you for the truth even with difficult subjects. Use the right terms when explaining your answer. Don’t say, for example, “a baby grows in mummy’s stomach…” Tell them instead it grows in a womb.

Be brief

You don’t have to go into the tiniest detail when explaining. Don’t overwhelm them with the facts. Keep the answer brief and simple. They will come back with more questions and you’ll go into detail as they grow. Answer their questions when they ask. Don’t say, “We’ll talk about that when you’re 18, or when you’re old enough.” You don’t want them to get answers from other sources which may not be as reliable.  “Timing is a matter of balance – not telling children too much, too early, before they are interested or ready to understand, but not waiting until they know too much from negative, incomplete, wrong sources,” write Linda Eyre and Richard Eyre in How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It’s Best to Start Early, but It’s Never Too Late — A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age.

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