Raising children is an adventure. It brings many joys and rewards, but there are also many challenges. Children are naturally curious, constantly exploring and asking questions about the world. Sometimes, these questions catch parents off-guard. When your child asks tough questions, it can be hard to know what to say, but with a few simple strategies, you can provide answers that satisfy their curiosity and help them cope with life’s difficult moments.
1. Understand Your Child’s Questions
As a parent, it can be overwhelming to deal with children asking questions in a seemingly rapid-fire manner, especially when those questions touch on heavy topics. The first step is to understand what kind of answers your child is looking for.
Many of the questions children ask about tough topics aren’t meant to start long, deep conversations. Sometimes, a short, simple answer is all the child wants. If you’re unsure what prompted a question, you might start by saying, “That’s a good question. Why do you ask?” The child’s response will give you clues as to how to proceed.
2. Answer the Question With a Question
When a child asks a tough question, it might be because he or she already has an idea about the answer. If you’re unsure of how to respond to the question, you can ask, “What do you think?” The child’s answer may surprise you! Answering questions with questions encourages children to think critically and lets them know that you value their ideas.
3. Find the Answer Together
Small children often trust that their parents and caregivers have all the answers, but you know better. It’s okay to admit you don’t know the answers to difficult questions.
When answering the many questions children ask books are a valuable resource. Ask your local children’s librarian for book recommendations to help you discuss tough topics with your child. When your child asks a question you’re not able to answer on your own, you can say, “I’m not sure. Let’s read about it together!”
4. Encourage Children To Ask Questions
Refusing to discuss hard subjects is one of the biggest mistakes parents and caregivers make. Talking openly about difficult topics is hard for many adults, but allowing and encouraging children’s questions helps them develop the emotional skills to process hard situations.
5. Share Your Emotions
Why do children ask so many questions, especially during difficult times? Tough questions are often accompanied by big feelings that children need help processing. You can help by talking honestly and openly about your own feelings.
When processing a loss, for example, your child needs to know that his or her feelings are healthy and normal. Validate your child’s feelings by sharing your feelings in age-appropriate terms. You might say something like, “I’m crying because I miss Granddad. I feel angry that he got sick and died. It’s okay to be sad and angry.” Talking openly about emotions helps children develop empathy and lets them know that all feelings are valid.
6. Offer Comfort and Security
Children rely on their parents and caretakers to protect them. Unfortunately, frightening things happen every day, and children turn to trusted adults for answers and reassurance. When children ask questions about scary subjects like war and violence, you may struggle to answer their questions honestly without instilling more fear and anxiety.
In these situations, be as honest as possible about the topic, but emphasise that the child will always be safe and cared for. For example, if your child is concerned about an act of violence he or she saw on the news, you might say, “I know it’s scary that some people want to hurt others. Our home is a safe place, and Mum and Dad will always look out for you.”
Teaching children to ask questions about the things that worry them helps alleviate anxiety. Even if your answers are not perfect, simply being able to talk about a scary topic can bring relief.
Children’s questions never seem to end. While they can be challenging at times, it is important to remember that asking questions is how children learn and process information. By encouraging these questions, you open the door for conversations that offer valuable insight into your child’s mind, provide reassurance and nurture the child’s emotional development.
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