Children are naturally curious, but have you ever been stumped by your child’s questions? What do you do when your kid suddenly blurts out, “How are babies made?” or “What happens to you when you die?”
“Explaining [those things] to young kids can be a challenge, because cognitively, they are still thinking in terms of black and white. Their understanding is generally based on their own experiences and their immediate environment. Preschoolers are also very egocentric, so it’s difficult for them to see things from an objective point of view,” says Cara Fernandez, Ph.D., executive director at the Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao SJ Center for Psychology Services.
The best way to answer these tough questions is to be honest with your kids. “We want to avoid misconceptions and confusion, and we want to prevent the child from being so stressed, because he might misinterpret kung ano ang sasabihin mo,” says Angie Sievert-Fernandez, Ph. D., child life program manager of Kythe, clinical psychologist, and mom to Amaya, 5, and Mayumi, 2.
Being straightforward also prevents your kids from turning to other, less reliable sources of information. Venessa Hernandez, a marketing officer and mom to Julia, 12, Nash, 4, and Bogart, 2, agrees. “Kasi sa nature ng technology ngayon, malalaman at malalaman din ng mga bata ang mga bagay na ‘yan. Pwede nilang i-research sa Internet ‘yung answers. Hindi mo naman laging makikita ang ginagawa nila sa computer. At saka minsan sa school, hindi mo rin alam kung ano yung mga napag-uusapan nila. Para hindi sila ma-confuse at para hindi sila tanong nang tanong, sasabihin ko na sa kanila yung totoo,” she says.
Here’s how you can answer some of your kids’ toughest questions:
“Why doesn’t Daddy live with us?” When children ask this question, they’re trying to make sense of things they see and experience. Answer with something that the child can relate to, like a TV show or book that depicts the same situation. You can even cite a school scenario. “You can say, ‘’Di ba in school, when two of your classmates are fighting, the teacher gives them a time out? Well, Mommy and Daddy don’t want to fight anymore, so Daddy lives in one house and we live in another. When Daddy and I see each other now, we don’t fight anymore,’” says Dr. Fernandez.
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“Why does Daddy have another family?” Instead of focusing on the other parent having another family, reassure your child. “[The other parent should tell the] child that he’d still spend time with her, that even though he doesn’t live with the child anymore, they would still have Saturday nights or go to the mall every Sunday together. Don’t just say that you love your child—give her a concrete manifestation of that love,” says Dr. Fernandez.
“Why do boys and girls go to different washrooms?” “You can say that boys and girls pee in different ways,” says Dr. Fernandez. “‘Boys have a penis, so they pee standing up. Girls have a vagina, so they pee sitting down.’ At this age, just give them concrete, observable, and simple answers. Say it as it is. You don’t call an arm by another name, right? It also demystifies the whole penis-vagina thing,” she explains.
“How are children born?” Be truthful, but also make your explanation age-appropriate. Mom-of-three Venessa makes it a point to answer her kids’ questions as truthfully as possible. “Kahit mahirap, siyempre pakonti-konti mo nang ie-explain. Noong tinanong ako ni Julia kung paano nanganganak ang girls, sinabi ko na una, nabuntis ako, tapos lumabas ka sa vagina,” she says.
“Why is that man dressed like a girl?” Answer straightforwardly, without any hint of prejudice. “You can say that maybe he feels more like a girl than a boy, or he likes dressing up like a girl, but he is who he is in spite of dressing up and being like a girl,” says Dr. Sievert-Fernandez. People think and act in different ways and there’s nothing wrong with that.