‘Curious children ask 73 questions each day - many of which parents can't answer, says study’
This is a headline from www.independent.co.uk dated 3 December 2017. The study mentioned here is a survey done by OnePoll on behalf of Littlewoods.com, published in March 2013.
“Why is water wet?”
“Why do we have to go to school?”
“Why are you so old?”
These are just some of the questions children ask their moms every day, according to the study.
Children, as a rule, are curious and want to understand everything about how the world works. While some questions are basic and simple to answer like, “Why does the moon come out at night?” other questions like, “Where do babies come from?” tend to stun parents into silence.
If you have been pondering about some of the tough questions asked by your child, worry not. Mahalakshmi Rajagopal, Director of Sahayam Intervention Centre and Sahayam Charitable Trust, Delhi, shares some valuable inputs to help tackle your child’s questions.
Questions children usually ask
1. Cycle of Life
- Where do babies come from?
- Why is mummy’s tummy big?
- When will I be a grown-up?
- Why does Grandpa have white hair?
- Why are Grandma and Grandpa so old?
Expert’s take: “The best way to answer these questions is to adopt a logical or scientific approach. In a very simple manner, explain to your child how everything changes with age. Compare your hand with your child’s or compare his hand with his grandfather’s hand. Talk about it as a natural process and explain everything in a scientific manner. This will make him think, assimilate and be convinced with the answer.
When it comes to pregnancy, as parents, we can’t explain this question precisely, not because it’s uncomfortable to talk about it but because it’s beyond the child’s cognitive grasp. For such questions, we need to explain - “Babies are formed inside the stomach. And, mummy’s tummy grows big as the baby grows big.” If the child asks, “How are babies formed?” you can say, “The answer to this is complex; you may not understand it now. We will explain it to you after you become big.” You can also show videos of the reproduction process in animals. As a parent, I have shown them to my daughter. This way, it becomes easy for the child to understand.”
- Where did my fish go?
- Why did Grandma die?
- Why do plants die?
- Why did my dog die?
- Why do people die?
Expert’s take: “To introduce the concept of death to children, it’s best to start by talking about the death of pets. Many homes now have pets and it’s very important to prepare your child when you bring a pet home. This is because a pet’s lifespan is lesser than that of humans. You need to explain that her pet will grow like her, but since it has a shorter lifespan it will not be with her throughout her life. I have seen many children being severely affected because they were not prepared for their pet’s death.
Tell your child that everything has a life cycle – whether it’s a plant, an animal or human beings. We are born, we live for some time and then we pass away. The simplest answer to the question “Why did he die?” is “Because he stopped breathing.” Explain to him that when a particular organ stops functioning and becomes too sick to repair, the person stops breathing. You can also draw a parallel to a non-living object, like a laptop, an iPad or cooked food, all of which have a lifespan.
You should also teach your child that it is good and OK to grieve. Tell her that it is very natural to grieve for what you’ve lost and to feel sad about it.”
3. Natural Disasters
- Why do earthquakes happen?
- What is a tsunami?
- Why does fire come out of some mountains?
- Why do floods destroy people’s homes?
Expert’s take: “The answers to these questions must be based entirely on science. Never go into religious explanations or superstitions. However, the question a child grapples with the most when it comes to natural disasters is, “Why are so many people crying and scared?” Explain to your child that it is not the fear of the natural calamity, but the concern for the safety of family members and belongings that causes adults to look scared. This is also the perfect opportunity to make your child conscious about the environment and teach her to respect and nurture Mother Nature.”
- Why should I not talk to a stranger?
- Why should I be careful around that uncle?
- When should I trust someone?
- Why should I not ask for help from a stranger?
- Why should I not take candy from strangers?
Expert’s take: “It’s easy to explain to your child why he should not trust a stranger. You can tell him, “We don’t trust strangers because we don’t know anything about them.”
Many a time, parents commit the mistake of emphasising that their children be wary of only strangers. They should bear in mind that children are, at times, fooled or cheated even by known people. Therefore, instead of alerting only about strangers, parents should also alert their children to be on their guard even when familiar people are around. Ask your child to talk to you if he feels uncomfortable with a known person. As a parent, you need to be objective, open and alert.”
5. God and Religion
- Who or what is God?
- Why is my friend’s God’s name different from my God’s?
- Where does God live?
- Does God eat and sleep like us?
Expert’s take: “The important thing here is to inculcate the concept of spirituality in your child. Also, it is important to groom her to become a good human being rather than focus on her becoming a religious person.
As far as creation goes, you can tell your child, “Someone needed to create the first atoms and molecules. And, God created it.”
When it comes to explaining about religion, you can tell your child that religion helps us have a framework to live by and follow a set path. You can also tell her that religion is something that is followed by our families and forefathers, and that is why we become people of one religion.
Regarding God’s presence, teach your child that God is present everywhere.”
- What is the meaning of cheap?
- What is the meaning of expensive?
- Why do we need money?
- Why should we save money?
- Why do we need to pay money to buy something?
Expert’s take: “Compare money to love. Teach your child to respect, care and nurture money just as he would something or someone he loves.
How a family spends money depends on the family’s culture and lifestyle. Having money is not always about being able to afford something. We must explain to our child that every family’s needs and priorities are different and that they spend accordingly. Also, tell him that some families have higher income than others and that they spend as per their needs and affordability, and that we shouldn’t be bothered about it.
Parents should introduce the concept of piggy banks for children and make them understand the concept of saving.”
- Why can’t I stay up late like you?
- Why can’t I go to office?
- Why don’t you and Dad go to school?
- Why must we brush our teeth?
Expert’s take: “Give your child a very simple and straightforward answer to questions about routine. Tell her that everyone has a different role in a family. Tell her - “We went to school when we were young like you. After we grew up we started going to work in our offices. So, you too must go to school now and then go to office after you grow up.” Also, underline the importance of each person following their routine in the family.”
- Why is Sashi’s dad not with them? Why does he live with somebody else?
- Why don’t our grandparents stay with us?
- Why does Malini’s mom have two homes - a husband’s home and parent’s home?
- What do you mean by ‘getting married’?
Expert’s take: “When talking about relationships, parents should make sure that there are no biases involved and no one is shown in a bad light. We must teach our kids to respect, love and care for each other.
Regarding separation or divorce, you can tell your child how, sometimes, in the best interest of the family, it becomes inevitable.
However, if a child’s own parents are separating, these questions should be handled delicately and differently. Then, the answers will depend on the specific situation.”
While all these answers may help you to answer your child in the simplest and best possible manner, remember that you know your child best and you must alter your answers based on the situation and environment around you.
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