Finley Robinson

Family Friday: When Kids Ask Hard Questions

published26 days ago
3 min read

Happy Friday from my Family to yours! 👋🏼

Today's story takes 4+ minutes to read but it's worth it.

Look Back: On kids making $10, $100, or $1000 mistakes.

Tell The Truth

In an effort to always make this Family Friday newsletter a must-read every week, I often ask young parent friends for relevant ideas.

A few months back, Andrew asked me to write about how we responded when our kids asked hard questions.

Honestly, it's had me stumped for a while. I know that we did it and our kids never seemed hesitant to bring hard questions.

But, I can't recall that we had a specific strategy, except for maybe always tell the truth.

I've been reading through the parenting book Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy and I loved her approach. It reminded me of some things we tried to employ, but she framed it so well that I'm sharing the outline with you.

The Challenge

Throughout the power-decade of parenting you are in, your kids will have a ton of questions. Some of them will be really difficult to address.

Will you and dad die someday?
Why are my friends so mean to me?
Is grandma going to recover from cancer?
But who put the baby in your belly mommy?
Why did you and dad yell at each other last night?

In its simplest terms, answering your kids comes down to three things:

  • Tone
  • Timing
  • The Truth

But before we discuss an approach, we should all acknowledge something together. These questions are hard on us too.

These can be uncomfortable and scary conversations with our kids. I know that I had my breath taken away on several occasions when my kids shocked me with an unexpected question.

But, we owe it to our kids to be brave and speak the truth at the right time and with the proper tone.

Part 1: Confirm Their Perceptions

"I know that ____ happened. You were right to notice that."

Young kids are designed to be observant. They are taking in a whole world and have more first-time revelations than you realize.

When something causes your son or daughter to stop and ask a big question, at that moment they need a couple of things:

  1. Your presence.
  2. A story to understand.

You validate what they have seen or thought by being with them and beginning to frame an age-appropriate story.

"Confirming our children's perceptions sets them up to recognize when things don't feel right later [ie. teenage years], and it will empower them to trust themselves enough to speak up."

Part 2: Honor Their Questions

I remember when my 5-year-old daughter asked us what "sexing" was a couple of months into kindergarten. I couldn't believe it.

Did we give her the full anatomy lesson? Of course not. But we did slow down and ask a few more questions to her.

Where had she heard that term? What did she think it meant?

It's easy to think that kids are not old enough to be asking certain questions so you might as well dodge them. But they are asking!

You need to honor their question with an answer. It doesn't have to be an adult answer or a long answer, but they deserve to be told at least the start of an answer. Then you can pause and see if more explanation is needed.

"Kids who ask questions need answers so they aren't left alone with the feelings, thoughts, and images that already live inside them."

Part 3: Admit What You Don't Know

Part of being a mom or dad is leveling with your kids about the limits of your understanding too.

This is another form of speaking the truth to your kids.

Is dad going to lose his job? We don't know yet.
Will I like middle school next year? I hope so but I'm not certain.

When you don't have clear answers, use the following formula:

"Here is what I don't know and here's what I do know."

When you combine this approach and then affirm that you'll be supportive emotionally, you're going to do just fine.

Part 4: Focus On How Not What

The first thought in my mind, and likely yours, is what am I supposed to say now?

What words
What to explain
What to leave out

Yes, you will need to say something but how you approach it will be more impactful and longer lasting.

There are big feelings in play. Make sure to acknowledge them.

"There are no perfect words to explain imperfect situations. In fact, the how of our talking - the pace, the tone, the pausing, the checking in with your child, the rub on the back, the 'what an important question' or 'I'm so glad we are talking about this' - these factors are more impactful than any specific words.

When it does come to the what, we found it best to use real words instead of euphemisms. This is the best way to be clear and kind.

I know you are in the thick of it every single day!

Continue to be brave for your kids and be ready for those crazy questions to come your way at any moment!

Until Next Friday...

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