I recently received the following question from one of my regular blog readers. It is one of those things that we don't often think about until they happen -- those really tough questions from our kids:
"I enjoy your website! I have a question for you. My five year old is starting to ask some of lifes difficult questions such as "why is my cousin not living with her daddy anymore"? which leads to "what is divorce"? We had a family pet die recently, which came the next question "Mommy are you going to die"? "Where do babies come from"? And like most five year olds one question leads to another. My daughter is very sensitive to some of these subjects, and I honestly feel some of the subjects are very difficult for her to understand. Do you have any advice…" Deanna
Tough questions! I truly believe it is important to answer questions as honestly as possible. Having said that, it is important that our answers to these difficult life questions are given in a developmentally appropriate manner. Let's tackle some of these difficult questions one at a time:
death. Children often become
intrigued about death around your daughter's age. Both my kids went through a phase where they
talked about death and dying frequently either with us, in discussion with
friends or during pretend play. Initially, this made me quite anxious. I wasn't sure where it was coming from. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that this is a normal experience
for kids around this age. So, how to
answer those tough questions? While we
don't want to scare the wits out of them, death is something that is
inevitable. I'm not sure there is any
one right or wrong answer when kids ask about this. I think it depends on your families personal
beliefs about death. For example, my
family is Catholic so we believe that we will pass on to heaven. When each of our kids asked about death, we
were honest and said that yes, one day, we too will pass. We also told them that even though we may not
be on earth in body that we would be with them in spirit. We responded in a similar way when our cat
passed away a couple years ago. Every now
and then while saying prayers at dinner, our five your old will pray for
Questions about where babies come from. Boy, I bet you didn't think your five year old would be asking about this! I know I wasn't! With this question as well, I don't know that there is right or wrong answer. From a developmental stand point, I'm not sure how much a five year old would understand about the anatomy of childbirth nor how appropriate it would be to share with them. It can be a little scary for some kids to think about something coming out of them! I wouldn't advise telling a child that babies are "delivered by the stork" or any nonsense like that. They are going to find out one way or another as they get older. You can start laying a foundation for when they are developmentally ready for "the talk." Our son was quite inquisitive about this and asked this question around the same age. I had a c-section with both him and his sister so we told him that he and his sister grew inside my belly and that because they were so big, the doctors had to take them out. That satisfied him and he returned to his regular routine at the time. I, of course, gave a huge sigh of relief that the questioning stopped!
Questions about divorce. This is a pretty common question for kids to ask their parents as a result of the increasing divorce rate. The thought of divorce can produce a lot of anxiety for kids. Again, it is important to be honest with them. Our son had a classmate whose parents were divorced. When he asked what it was and whether we were going to get divorced, we were open and honest with him. We explained that in some families, the moms and dads fall out of love or they just can't get along with each other no matter how hard they try. We told them that when this happens, some parents decide that they cannot live in the same house any more. We also explained that their decision to get divorced is very hard for the parents and that it has nothing to do with their children as they love them greatly. In our situation, we were able to tell our son that we still love each other greatly and enjoy each other's company and that we had no plans of getting a divorce. He seemed content with that answer and hasn't asked about divorce since.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind when faced with tough questions from your kids:
- Don’t avoid. Remember that kids are trying to figure out their world and that if we don't give them the answers, they find it out on their own which can ultimately lead to them being misinformed. So don't ignore the questions or be evasive in answering them. You want to lay a foundation for your kids that you are willing and able to talk about the tough subjects. Think ahead to the future! If you demonstrate this willingness now, hopefully your child will feel comfortable coming to you as a teen when the questions get REALLY tough!
- Be honest. Keep in mind that if you are not, you will have to explain later on why you told them something that was inaccurate.
- Take some time. If you aren't sure how to answer the question, ask them for some time to think about it. Kids this age are very understanding. Feel free to tell them that you want to answer that question but need some time to think about it. This gives you some time to think about and plan the best response for you and your child.
- Be prepared. If your child hasn't yet asked any of these tough questions, you have time to prepare! Consider how you want address tough topics. Discuss them with your spouse, friends or family. Find out from other parents that you respect, how they handled the tough questions. This way, when the tough questions come, you will be ready for them!
Fantastic question, Deanna! I hope that you find this information helpful. I'm sure that you will navigate these tough questions just fine :)
Do you have a question you would like answered? Click on the "Contact Me" button on the home page and forward me your questions. I'd be glad to give it a go!