Your toddler’s inquisitiveness can leave you blushing. Especially when you’re out in public. And when you’ve spent the best part of an hour playing the ‘but why?’ game (a favourite from around 2½), it can be easy to forget that asking questions is a natural and necessary part of a child’s development.
“My first golden rule for parents when children ask questions is to answer them as honestly as you can,” says Dr Miriam Stoppard, author of Questions Children Ask and How to Answer Them. “If you stammer or avoid the question they’ll pick up on that and won’t feel able to come to you with other questions.”
“Give simple answers and see if they’re satisfied with them,” she says. “You can then ask, ‘Is that ok?’ If they say, ‘Oh, ok’ and just get on with whatever they’re doing, then that’s fine. But if they’re still looking puzzled or unhappy, you have a duty to say, ‘Would you like to ask me anything else?'” And there more than likely will be. Try these answers for some of the most commonly asked difficult questions:
“Where did I come from?”
“This is frequently the first question a small child ever asks about the facts of life,” says Dr Miriam, “and can often arise when you tell your child you’re expecting another baby. ‘You were made in your mummy’s tummy
and you grew in there safely until it was time for you to be born,’ will suffice.”
“Why’s she only got one hand?”
Children are a lot more accepting than you’d think, and it’s good to let them realise that people’s bodies are different and some people have a disability. “Again, simple is best,” says Angela Ferguson from Parentline Plus. “Just tell your child you’re not sure, but you think she was born that way.”
“Why’s that man so fat?”
You’re bound to see some overweight people out and about. Angela Ferguson says, “The important thing to remember is that toddlers and pre-schoolers want simple explanations, not long, complicated answers. ‘Because people come in all different shapes and sizes’ will do.”
“Is that a sweetie?”
Women’s sanitary products can often look enticing with their wrappers, but this is one you really don’t need to go into detail over! “Just tell your tot, ‘No it’s not a sweetie, it’s just something mummies use’,” says Angela Ferguson. “You’ll find that she’ll quickly accept your answer and immediately move on to the next exciting activity or topic of conversation!”
“Where’s daddy/mummy gone?”
“Trying to protect children caught in the middle of the breakdown of their parents’ relationship can be heartbreaking for both mother and father,” says Dr Miriam. “Try not to bad-mouth your partner – no matter what your personal feelings may be, that person is still your child’s other parent.
Instead, try something like, ‘Mummy and daddy are cross with each other, so mummy may decide to go and live somewhere else for a while. Mummy’s really sorry she won’t be with you but we both still love you very much and always will. Mummy will come and see you as often as possible – at least once a week.'”
“Am I going to die?”
“A child under 5 doesn’t really understand the concept of time,” says Sue Atkins, parenting coach and author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies. “So don’t overcomplicate your answer – a simple answer that reflects your own beliefs will be fine. ‘Yes, everything that lives does die, but you won’t for a long, long time,’ is enough.”
Now you’ve answered her difficult questions find out how to cope with a toddler stand-off!