My twins just turned four and they are starting to ask tougher questions. For example, a couple of days ago my daughter inquired about the little boy pictured on the weekly store circular (next to the words, “Have you seen me?”). A few weeks ago my son asked why there was a man standing on the freeway off ramp (holding a sign that read, “Homeless, please help”).
When my kids first started asking questions about the world I made up my mind that I would always answer honestly. It is, I thought, better to help your children learn to navigate the realities of the world head on, rather than to lie or over-simplify. My wife is on the same page. However, this new line of questioning has me wondering to what extent I should open my children’s minds to the harsher realities of the world. Do four-year-olds really need to grapple with the concepts of missing children and homelessness?
So far, I have chosen to stick with the plan and answer their questions plainly. My answers have been succinct, but to the point. I explained to my daughter that the boy was missing, his parents are looking for him, and they put his picture on the circular in case we might have seen him. She was concerned and expressed that we should look for him. I said, “That’s exactly right, they want us to watch for him when we go places, with the hopes that we might see him and let them know.” I told my son that some people don’t have a home like we do, that some folk aren’t as fortunate as we are, and that we should be grateful for what we have. My wife and I have taught the kids about gratitude, so circling back to that seemed to help him understand it.
I know that these questions are just the tip of the iceberg. The questions about death and where babies come from are inevitable. I am interested in hearing from you. How do/did you address the tough questions with your children? Have you tried to protect your children from the harsher realities of the word? If so, how have you gone about responding to their tougher questions? If you answer head on, have you had success in framing answers in a certain way that help them comprehend matters?
I’m certainly willing to admit that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to having all the answers.