by Laura Berthiaume December 23, 2022 3 min read
There are so many unexpected parts of parenting.
Of course, we all know about certain challenges that come along with parenthood - meltdowns, potty training, lack of sleep, etc.
But then there's all the stuff I hadn't prepared for... like the time I read my three year old a very basic "where do babies come from?" book, in anticipation of my second child.
After finishing the book, he asked "But how does the sperm get inside the mom?"
Or when he was four and wanted to know why the school across the street set out rows of children's shoes last spring. This was done as a tribute to the 215 children found buried at Kamloops Residential School.
These are not topics I want to hide from my children but I also knew I needed an age appropriate way to answer these questions.
I came across this great approach in the book Montessori For Every Family by Tim Seldin and Lorna McGrath.
In it, they outline how to answer all the "sticky" questions in a very child-led, Montessori-aligned way.
They helped me to plan my approach to difficult questions, like pregnancy/conception, current affairs, anti-racism and social justice, religion, divorce, and death.
How to Answer Difficult Questions From Your Child - 4 Steps
1. Prepare and talk to your parenting partner
There's certain topics you know are likely to come up in the next few years - like fantasy figures (Santa/tooth fairy/Easter bunny), death, pregnancy, etc.
It's easier to think about how you want to approach these topics now, before your child asks. Some of these topics require careful and age appropriate language.
Talk to your parenting partner so you're on the same page. Talk about what you want to say, as well as how you'll deal with outside influences.
For example, if your family doesn't believe in Santa, how will you deal with other children at school talking about Santa or seeing images of him everywhere in December?
2. Follow your child's lead
When it comes to complex topics and questions, sometimes young children don't need as much information as we think. This is especially true when they're under six years old.
Follow their lead with questions and only provide as much information as you think they can absorb. Keep answers brief and factual, only proving more information as they ask more questions.
For example, the amount and depth of information regarding pregnancy/conception that you share with a toddler versus an 8 year old versus a teenager will be much different.
3. Remember, it's ok if you need more time
If you're not sure how to answer a question, you can always say some variation of "Let me think about it and get back to you."
If it's a conversation that needs to be handled delicately and you haven't planned out what you're going to say, you can suggest another time to talk about it. Just be sure to follow through.
4. Books and other visual aids can help
For young children, visual and tactile aids can help them to better grasp complex topics, like books, puzzles, or videos.
That's the main reason I've added these Usborne books to the site.
We've also put together this list of books to prepare for different events and changes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/122Fn32RK5wijPPn7rLhPOtJZnMFtxFXLogLfckVSVFg/edit?usp=sharing
Do you have any recommendations?
If you have any other books that you think would be great to add to the Google doc above, please do share.
I'd love to add books on topics we haven't listed (divorce, racism, bullying, neurodiversity), as well as more options for older children.
Let me know if you have any ideas that could help other families.
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