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I broached the subject of our impending move with my daughter carefully, hoping to sidestep any of the many difficult questions kids ask by putting things in terms that she can relate to. I explained that we live in Boston now but in a couple months we would be moving into a house not too far from here, in the same town that one of her friends lives. We’ve been to this friend’s house many times and she knows her friend’s parents quite well too. I paused to give her a moment to process the information and respond. “What…color is Isabel’s dad’s shirt?” Not exactly the question I was expecting, but she’s only two and a half years old, after all.
Clearly the type of questions kids ask directly corresponds to age and development. I may have time before I start getting the really difficult questions about death, religion, money, and sex. Right now we’re in the “what?” phase. “What are you doing?” “What are you talking about?” and her favorite, “What are you eating, mama?”. This one comes up a lot (I’m 7 months pregnant). So far I’ve managed to avoid getting stumped by using any one of the following five strategies:
Keep it light: At this age my daughter’s questions are mostly conversational. When we’re at the market and she asks “What is it?” when pointing to a banana, I typically respond with any or all of the following: “a stinky sock”, “fish bones”, “frog legs”, or “a pancake” to which she emphatically informs me that it is, in fact, a banana.
Be the interviewer: When I’m out of good joke material I often turn the tables and ask her question back to her. Sometimes she’ll make a joke too, but most of the time she answers her own question.
Investigate: Last year I read Raising a Self-Reliant Child and loved the author’s suggestion about encouraging problem solving. We have access to books, the internet, and old fashion brainstorming. Putting my daughter in control of information seeking is a great way to empower her curiosity.
Buy yourself some time: When I was pregnant with my daughter, my niece (three years old) asked “How did the baby get in your belly, Auntie?” Not wanting to deny my sister-in-law the opportunity to answer this question, I told my niece that she had asked a great question and I knew her mom or dad would have the perfect explanation for how that baby did get in my belly. Then I distracted her with a snack.
Keep it simple: In my effort not to be a long winded, lecturing parent I try to answer some questions as clearly and concisely as possible. What color is Isabel’s dad’s shirt? “Blue.” Hopefully brevity will also be the best policy when she starts asking the more difficult questions.
In the spirit of good question asking, I’d love to know, what difficult or funny questions has your child asked you and how do you respond?