A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a waiting room of an automobile shop, waiting for my oil change, minding my own business. Then comes in a mother with her daughter, that was roughly around 6 years old. Very cute, mother and daughter. They sat and took out some snacks while they prepared for their wait. While we were all waiting, the TV was on and a not so appropriate movie was playing. Violence, drugs, police… you get the picture.
Then I witnessed the trickling effect of trying to explain to your kid things that they are not ready to hear. This mother began with a nice simple explanation of what drugs were and how they are bad for you. Great! Love it! Child was happy with the answer. Let’s move on, right? Hmmm… Well, we didn’t. I then observed this mother getting swept into a tornado of unnecessary explanations, that besides being confusing and not age-appropriate… were just not needed by the child. And like that, mother’s anxiety about this issue brought her right into the eye of the storm and I silently watched her go into that spiral… with no return!
I am, of course, exaggerating the proportions of this event. But, it was an interesting observation that speaks to the literature that children will ask questions until they are happy with the answer. They need age-appropriate information that they can process. Anything less, they’ll keep asking. Anything more, well, we gave them much more than they can handle. Sometimes that creates confusion, misunderstandings, fears… or sometimes they are just not that interested and will change the subject themselves. By the way, that’s what happened in the example above. The child was able to stop the storm and they both happily moved on to a new subject (much to my relief).
As kids grow older we get struck with more and more questions that seem hard to answer, too complex, and somethings we are just not comfortable talking to them about. However, it is important to keep communication open with children. Being honest, sharing information that a child their age can understand (their real age… not the baby age we still think they are), and keeping it simple can be your 3 golden rules to keep in mind in these tough moments. We don’t want to scare them or make them feel unsafe, but we also shouldn’t protect them to the extent where they will find out information from someone else (and who knows if even accurate).
So next time your chid ask a tough question, don’t ask your mp3 player to play “The Wheels on the Bus”… try to simply, honestly answer their questions. If you are not ready, ask for time! Chances are, they’ll maybe even forget about it for a couple of days! 😉
Watch this video… it’s worth it!