How to answer children's awkward questions ...

14 June 2017

Dear friends,

It sometimes feels like I spend my entire day answering questions. As a primary school teacher and mother I must field hundreds of questions. Usually kids asking where something is or can I... but there are some absolute corkers that I've been asked. I wish I'd written them all down!

I know the sheer weight of questions posed by a toddler can be crippling. Who invented the word why? I must admit that I definitely don't have as many questions to answer now the boys are tweens but I am sure that the difficulty of the questions has increased. My boys have stumped me several times lately. A study carried out by supported my findings...

  • British parents are called on by their children to answer an average of 23 questions an hour. ... parents are the most quizzed people in the UK, and on subjects far and wide. They are asked more questions every hour than a primary school teacher - 19 - as well as doctors and nurses, 18. 
  • And girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day .
  • Although the number of questions kids ask falls with age, they increase in difficulty - so much so that 82 per cent of mums admit they can't answer them. 
  • Nine out of ten parents even concede they have resorted to secretly using Google to solve their infant's problem.

Recently my little man asked, If god is real then who made god? I tweeted my little philosophers question out and got quite a response so I decided to throw it out to my blogging buddies. What questions have your kids asked that have stumped you?

Oh my goodness Leo is full of obscure questions. Recently, 'Is there a heaven for fish and sandwiches?' 'Do carrots feel cold?' 'Why is love called love?' ..and 'Do Donkeys speak French?' Usually asked last thing at night. Jade parenting jungle

When he was 3 'Where do elephants sneeze from?' and when he found out we were expecting twins (again when he was 3) his immediate reaction was 'where will they sleep?' We don't have enough beds' How very practical of a pre-schooler! mummy mindful

What is at the end of space? Anthony guessed it was probably white, and maybe that's where God was. He then set about asking questions as to why we hadn't got to the edge of space yet.... and that took a rather long time explaining. Rainbowsaretoobeautiful

What's stronger? A brick or a current in the sea? Erm!!
Pink pear bear

The question that stumped me was 'Mummy how did Daddy put a baby in your tummy?' on a BUS! I didn't know what to say!
Crummy Mummy

My eldest is to turn 3 in August and my youngest 2 in July (I know). Their questions are still slightly limited, or at least I can still fob of their questions with stupid answers that don’t always make a great deal of sense as they still have that beautiful unquestioning naivety and mum is always right. Yet one thing I have worried about, more so lately, is make up. My daughter, and my son, usually sit with me as I do mine, they rifle through my bag and play about with the content. My daughter usually asks some for her too. Yet I dread the day she asks me, ‘why do you make up?’. I worry because body confidence so prevalent in the youth of today, for boys and girls and I need my answer to be right. 
 Tammy Mum UK

My personal top 10 Awkward Questions:
  1. Grandma why are you so old?
  2. Do dogs feel love? 
  3. Does Nova (the dog) miss her mum?
  4. Why do we call them Private parts?
  5. Why do people take drugs?
  6. Where do bad dreams come from? 
  7. Why do you have hair everywhere except on your head? (Poor hubby.)
  8. When are you going to die? 
  9. If god is real then who made god? 
  10. When I'm older will I get a hairy willy?

How to answer our children's awkward questions...

  • Listen
  • Ask open questions
  • Take time to discuss
  • Don't give too much information but be honest!
  • Don't get emotional or be sarcastic, you want your children to trust they can talk to you about anything
  • Keep lines of communication open, don't be scared to return to discussions
  • Don't be scared of saying the wrong thing
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate...

On a more serious note, I know many of my friends and fellow bloggers have raised concerns about knowing what to say to our children after the senseless terrorist attacks of recent weeks. My little man asked, Mum why would anyone want to hurt or kill anyone else? And he wanted to know are the bad men in Holland too? Answering these sorts of questions when your emotions are still raw can be extremely difficult but we have to. The advice from professionals is that talking about these issues is better than avoiding them. The news is everywhere, it is unavoidable and I would far rather talk to my children and help them through it than they hear somewhere else. But how do we answer their questions without scaring them? I decided to do some research. This is what I found...

Advice for answering children’s questions about terrorist attacks...
  • Give simple answers. Avoid unnecessary (or nasty) details. 
  • Tell the truth. Faced with the question, Could this happen again mum? Tell the truth but emphasize that it is rare and very unlikely to happen to them. 
  • Think about your language. General comments like, This is a very rare occurrence, It's absolutely awful but thank goodness it's extremely rare and Security has been tightened are really reassuring. 
  • Try to make sense of what your child is really asking. Your child’s question might be disguising a fear. Whilst we should acknowledge that it is ok to feel scared. It is important that our children feel safe to go about their normal lives. 
  • Focus on the people who are helping. Reinforce the message that most people are good. 

Remember, your main goal is to convey a sense of security for your child. Listen to your child and provide information based on your child’s questions.
Ritamaria Laird, an expert in pediatric mental health in Chicago.
For more information see the BBC article How to talk to children about terrorist attacks.

This morning I have been asked, Do I have to brush my teeth? Can I have sweets for breakfast? Where are my shoes? Is today going to be warm? Is it raining? What time are we going to school? Is it a long day? What time is it? (several times) Should we go now? Where is my bag? Do I need a coat? You get the picture. Parent's are amazing! Good luck today people 😉

A special thank you to all my lovely blogging buddies who contributed to this post!

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Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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