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Posted by Maya Chivi
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300 Questions & Counting

Did you know that the average 3 year old asks over 250 questions a day, while 4 year olds ask closer to 400? This number tapers down to approximately 150 by the time they’re nine (phew!), but that’s still a lot of answers parents have to come up with! So how do you deal with kids’ tough ones? Oh, you know, the ones about the birds and the bees, what happens when people die, where does the sky end, etc.…

First, try answering questions in an age-appropriate manner. Deep questions coming from a child may make them appear mature and ready to handle heavier answers, yet asking a question and being able to developmentally handle the response are two separate things. Children’s questions might be big, and they certainly can be to an adult, but the answers can still be small. Here, there can’t be a one size fits all solution. Try giving children answers you feel they would be able to comprehend and gage how much more information to provide based on their follow up questions – as there will likely be many!

It’s also important to keep in mind that children trust and see whatever information coming from you as fact. Questions related to different cultures, ethnicities, sexualities, skin color, and so on, may not have a right or wrong answer, as each family has its personal beliefs. You have a unique opportunity, however, to instill openness in your kids at a young age. Children are not born judgmental. We, as adults, teach them to discriminate. One good way to allow them to form their own opinions is by developing their critical thinking skills, discussed next.

Second, thanks to the amplified amount of information children are exposed to daily, the range of questions will follow suit. Rest-assured, you don’t have to know all the answers! When in doubt, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, let’s find out”. Here, you’ve opened up the door to spending quality time together to research anything and everything their minds come up with. This doesn’t have to happen in the middle of cooking dinner, but a running list can easily be generated on your phone or special notepad, to be referred to during the time you’ve set aside to “look things up”.

But what about the more touchy stuff? This is where critical thinking comes in. Parents often ask me, “Can we really develop decision-making skills at a young age?”. The answer is yes. And the sooner you start, the better! Asking your child questions like, “What do you think?”, “Why do you think they behaved that way?”, “How are we alike/different?”, etc…, will allow them to come up with answers for themselves (with your assistance) instead of solely relying on other adults. The aim here is to teach them how to think rather than telling them what to think. The result is their ability to think creatively and for themselves.

Third, it’s ok to say, “You’re a little too young for us to talk about this”. The majority of parents I meet are increasingly worried that their kids are going to be left out of their social circle when friends know more about a more mature subject (think sex, drugs, etc…) than they do, but are also scared to talk about these matters too early. The result is a race to teach children at younger and younger ages just to make sure they’re not bullied or left out. At the end of the day, you are your child’s best advocate and protector of their childhood, so follow your instincts, limit media exposure to inappropriate content, and allow them to enjoy their childhood with less adult burdens. But…

Fourth, keep in mind, if you don’t answer certain touchy questions, chances are you’re closing one communication door and your children may look for answers elsewhere… most likely from where they heard the idea in the first place. So ask yourself what it is that makes you uncomfortable about this subject, how can you answer in the most honest, yet age-appropriate manner possible, and what information are you not open to discussing at present time.

So with 18 in mind, you may not be able or willing to answer everything, but you can work on keeping yourself as your child’s primary go-to person for at least 299.9 questions a day.

Happy parenting!

Maya

 

N.B.: 18 in Mind is a blog about the day your kids turn 18 and the parenting years in between!

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