From the age of three, your child is bound to start asking many questions. Creative parenting expert Nikki Bush, author of Easy Answers to Awkward Questions, says this is a critical stage of your child’s development. “Children learn through conversation,” she notes. Bush adds that, as your child gets older, ‘why’ questions will be replaced with ‘how’ and ‘what’. This gives you more scope to help develop their problem-solving skills. You can find teachable moments almost everywhere.
Five common questions kids ask
1. How did I get into your tummy?
Educational psychologist, Catherine Marais points out that parents are usually more embarrassed than children when it comes to talking about anatomy. “It is important to respond to questions in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. Don’t reprimand their curiosity or imply that this is a topic we shouldn’t talk about, as this will mean that your child is reluctant to turn to you for answers in the future, and will instead look to his peers or the media.”
Bush agrees that sexuality is an issue that should be addressed early on. “If your child doesn’t raise the topic, don’t be shy to do so. Use examples from nature – for instance, if you see two birds mating, you can say ‘Look at the mommy dove and the daddy dove, they’re making a baby’. It’s not necessary to use too much detail, she notes, but be straight forward.
2. Why does he or she look different to me?
This question is bound to arise if you bath with your children, or if they bath with siblings of a different gender. Again, Bush says that being direct is best. “Explain that boys have two holes and girls have three; they have a middle hole. This will prompt them to ask what the middle hole is for, and you will answer that this is where the baby comes out. For an older child, you can explain that this is where adults have sex. Remember, when talking about sex, that you should repeat that it is something adults do, so that they get the message that it’s not for children.”
3. Who is God?
“Answer this in a way that is appropriate for your religious beliefs,” says Marais. “Small children aren’t able to think abstractly, so the concept of a higher power is hard for them to grasp. Provide them with a concrete example to help them understand the concept of God, such as, we can’t see the wind, but we can feel it. That’s a bit like God; we can’t see Him, but we can feel Him in our heart,” she advises.
4. What happens when you die?
Your answer depends on your religious beliefs, says Bush. So it’s important to check in with yourself before you answer. “This kind of question is seldom asked at a moment when you’re ready for it – it’s usually thrown in when you’re doing something else. Take time to reflect on what you believe so that, when the time comes, you are prepared with an honest answer.” Again, use teachable moments from your life like if a pet dies. It’s a chance to explain about the life-cycle.
5. Why do people get sick?
Kids might be worried about falling ill and dying, so it’s a good idea to explain that serious diseases, like heart disease, usually happen to older people. You can also explain that germs are tiny things that we can’t see, but that they get into our bodies when someone coughs or if we haven’t washed our hands and we touch our eyes or face. Use an analogy to show how the immune system works, Marais suggests. Point out that our bodies are usually strong enough to fight off the germs, as the immune system is like Pacman, but that sometimes we get sick anyway. “Reassure them that most illnesses are treatable if you rest, go to the doctor and take medicine,” says Marais.
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