At some time or another, your child is going to ask a question you wished you didn't have to answer.
The first awkward question may be about death or where babies come from and unfortunately, the older our children get, the more difficult their questions seem to become to answer.
When faced with a tough question that riddles you with anxiety, keep these tidbits in mind:
- We typically give our children more information than they need. Consider your child's question carefully. If you can answer with a yes, no or because, leave it at that and see how your child responds. If it quenches her curiosity, move on. If she asks additional questions, only answer the questions she asks.
- Answers have to be age-appropriate. If your three year old asks where babies come from, an age-appropriate answer is that they grow in their mummies bellies. This answer will usually provide enough information to satisfy his curiosity. A five year old may come back with a follow-up question, like how do they come out. A simple, honest answer, like they travel through the birth canal and out the vagina, is an age-appropriate answer, although it may make your cringe inside when you give it. And when your ten year old asks, it may be time for the dreaded "birds and the bees" conversation where you won't be able to leave much out.
- Don't get emotional. Presenting your answers in a matter-of-fact way will prevent you from sending the message that the topic is off-limits, wrong or uncomfortable to discuss. Remember you want your child to come to you with her questions. You also want your child to have confidence that you take her questions seriously, so avoid laughing or making snide remarks.
- Don't avoid answering. If you don't want to answer your child's question on the spot, tell him you will think about it and get back to him. If you avoid answering a question, your child, one way or another, will find out the answer on his own, and it may be an answer you would prefer him not to have.
- Be honest. It can be tempting to tell your kids that the deceased dog went to the farm or that the stork dropped off the baby, but if you do, you'll need to later explain the truth and why you weren't truthful to begin with.
Difficult questions are called difficult questions for a reason. They challenge us to balance honesty with age-appropriateness, giving enough information without giving too much information and presenting the facts in a way our children can understand.
You know your child best. As you begin the journey of answering a lifetime of tough questions, have confidence that you will give your child the answers she needs to hear most.