Help! My Kid Just Asked Me a Difficult Question and I Don’t Know How to Answer It!

Kids will spend more time with parents and less time with teachers in this period of distance learning and homeschooling. Now that parents need to be their kid’s teachers at home, kids are more likely to ask some questions parents might not be prepared for.

Because of technology and social media, kids are more exposed with topics which go beyond their age, and their curious minds bring them to ask questions about their body, their feelings, and their family and friends, which puts parents on the spot and in awkward situations. However, without proper explanation, kids might look for answers on their own, which is all the more scary for parents. How should parents answer kids’ difficult questions?

We asked registered guidance counselor and pre-school teacher Eden Calara, grade school teacher Leila Francisco, and education consultant, principal, and registered guidance counselor Prof. Corazon Huvalla of the toughest questions they encounter from their kids and their students. As moms, they also share with us strategies on how to answer kids’ questions the best possible way!

Experts Talk: How Should Parents Process Their Child's Difficult Questions?

How to answer the difficult questions of kids ages 3-7

Kids ages 3-7 look for stability and balance. Because they are still uncertain about the world at large, they look at the people around them for support. This is also the stage when kids develop their physical skills and start to assert themselves towards their choices of toys, food, and activities.

At this stage, they may ask:

  • Why do you always get mad at me?
  • Why don’t I see my mom and dad always?
  • Why do my classmates have two dads / moms?
  • I know that grandma died, but when is she coming back?
  • Why do you force me to eat vegetables even if I don’t like it?

 

“We have to establish a relationship with them built on trust and openness. As early as possible, we have to let them feel that we are their safe space, that they can tell us whatever they feel or think without the fear of being judged or reprimanded.” – Eden Calara, Registered Guidance Counselor and Pre-School Teacher

To answer kids’ questions in this age group, keep in mind to:

  • Keep your answers short and simple
  • Remind them to ask you if they have more questions.
  • There is no need to be very detailed about your answers. Meet kids in the level of their vocabulary.
  • Maintain your composure. Ask them about how much they know of the topic. This way, you get to figure out together which are true and which are not.
  • Be more involved in their activities–what they watch, what they play with, and what they listen to. This way, you can easily address things that you notice in those activities.
  • Instill in them love for themselves and their body. Teach your kids the proper names for their body parts. Doing this helps keep your children safe from sexual predators.

 

How to answer the difficult questions of kids 8-12
Kids aged 8-12 identify better with their peers than with their parents and teachers. They constantly compare themselves with kids their age. With proper guidance, kids will develop confidence in what they can do. On the other hand, when their questions are not properly addressed, they may lose their self-esteem and feel inferior.

At this stage, they may ask:

  • Why are you only happy when I get good grades?
  • Why does my teacher always favor my classmates?
  • Why don’t you like me as much as you like kuya or ate?
  • Why can’t I sleep over at my friends’ house when their parents allow them to?
  • Why do I always get hand me downs when my siblings always get new things?

“When my daughter was in Grade 1, she was already sharp and observant. She asked me if certain people in our lives respect us. I told her that I can’t really answer for other people, but there are things I am sure of: respect is not forced, and we respect them nonetheless.” – Teacher Leila Francisco, Grade School Teacher


“Because there are only two of us at home, I involve my daughter in decision making, such as which tiles to buy for the house or which utility bill to pay first. I know this sounds so much like an adult’s concern, but I choose to show her that I trust her with these things. I also want to establish in her the value she should place on the people and things around her. If we fail in this decision making, we fail and we learn together.” – Teacher Leila Francisco, Grade School Teacher

To answer kids’ questions in this age group, keep in mind to:

  • Lay down the facts in a manner they would understand
  • Bear in mind that they asked you the question in the premise that they look to you as their source of information. Be sincere in answering their questions.
  • Don’t underestimate kids. Sometimes we think that they don’t understand, but if we listen to them, they offer a different perspective about things compared with grown-ups.
  • If you are not prepared to answer the question, have the humility to say that you don’t have answers at the moment; reassure them that you will get back to them to answer the question and make it a point to answer their question once you’re ready, so they will feel that you value in their question.

 

How to answer the difficult questions of kids ages 13 and up

Kids aged 13 and up are in search of their identity. They explore different values and beliefs set before them. As they transition from teenage to adult, they ask about their sexuality and career choices, questions which answers impact their sense of belongingness.

At this stage, they may ask:

  • Why am I always not enough for you?
  • Why do my friends want to hurt themselves?
  • Why do my classmates post lies about me on social media?
  • Why can’t I understand Math while my friends are so good at it?
  • Why don’t I have a boyfriend/girlfriend when my classmates have one?
  • Why do you want me to be a doctor when I’ve always wanted to be an artist?

“I have anticipated what they needed to know from me, and I informed them as much as I could. I maintained an open and regular communication line with them, especially during the non-threatening hours of meals together, playing games, cleaning the house together, dinner or movie dates, etc.” – Prof. Corazon Huvalla, Registered Guidance Councelor

To answer kids’ questions in this age group, keep in mind to:

  • Take a deep breath before answering their questions
  • Always try to make a sense of what your child wants to know and from what context or situation he/she is coming from. Some of their questions may not need answers. They may be simply thinking aloud.
  • Answer in ways that he/she may understand, and not have more questions about your answer.
  • Always tell the truth, in a manner suited to their developmental age and temperament. You may say partial truth, but never a partial lie.
  • Do not answer questions when you are both emotional, especially when you’re furious.
  • Never answer your children’s questions in an authoritative manner or in any manner asserting your parenting authority. This might humiliate them or cause them to have low self-confidence or self-respect.
  • Welcome the questions as precious time of connecting with them, through casual conversations.

Source:
Saul McLeod, Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, 2018

 

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