what to say when you don't have a clue

 

We average about one conversation a week, with one or other of our children, during which we are suddenly at a total loss as to what to say. Perhaps you too have had a few Tough Questions like these:

Is Santa real?

What is racism?

If I go to heaven, will my toys come too?

When answering Tough Questions like these, Amy feels that it’s important not to have innocence-ending conversations too early. She calls it “age-appropriate obfuscation.” Keep it simple, keep it reassuring.

But Margaret likes to call this approach “Say ‘Delay,’ Run Away,” and she has somewhat of a point. The Tough Questions need to be answered, and if a parent doesn’t step up, a kid might just seek out some peer education, bound to be rife with misinformation.

In this episode, we discuss

  • why it’s hard to explain concepts like racism to children young enough to be unaware of it
  • how to let the child lead any delicate discussion with her questions (rather than your answers)
  • the power of the pause before responding
  • why you should always leave a little bit left over to divulge for next time
  • why we all just have to figure out the Easter Bunny back story already

Here’s some of the best advice we have collected:

  • from Meg’s sister in law: Only answer the question you are asked. 
  • from educator Danielle McLaughlin: “In order to actually engage our children, we need to find out what it is that they already know and what are they seeking to understand.”
  • from Michael Thompson, PhD: “Pausing for a moment…lets your child know you are taking him seriously.”
  • from PBS Parents: save a little bit of information for the next conversation on the same topic. Cause it’s coming.

And if you’re still completely tongue-tied…

Here are two books on the facts of life that are both thorough and reassuring:

The Care and Keeping of You Collection (American Girl)

It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families

For talking to our kids about race, The Well Queen Anne, a Methodist church, offers a great resource list here.

And for a how-not-to guide, here’s the tale of Amy’s Tooth Fairy explanation gone horribly awry. Learn from her mistakes.

How do you handle the tough questions in your house? Any advice of your own? Tell us in the comments!