What, why and how are some favourite chosen words of every child. As soon as your toddler starts forming words and making demands verbally, questions are the natural next step. And they can come at any time, often when you least expect it; at breakfast, at bedtime or from the back seat.
While it may be easy and tempting to simply say, “I will answer this when you are older”, it’s not the best practice. However tough the questions get, it’s always a good idea to engage in conversation with your child and satisfy their curiosity. Kids ask a lot of hard-to-answer questions, but these questions can spark great conversations that build trust. Dr Gurudutt Bhat, a Consultant Pediatrician at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan guides you to answer tough questions that your child asks.
1. Why doesn’t my sister’s/brother’s body look like mine?
Most child educators and safety experts agree it’s a good idea to use the correct terms for body parts when you explain to your child about differences in body parts. Especially when your kids are young, you can explain ‘private parts’ and what body privacy means: that nobody else should touch them. So when your 8-10-year-old child asks this question, make sure you stick to straight facts.
Dr Bhat states that a simple and factual answer will do it. “Boys and girls are different because they have different chromosomes, XY and XX respectively. These will make the body of a boy different from the body of a girl.”
2. Where do babies come from? How did the baby get in your belly?
In a perfect world, talking about sex with our children would be just another topic. However, such conversations about sex can cause anxiety for parents. Ask your child “What do you think?” before answering questions to get a better sense of what is really being asked and what’s likely to be understood. It always helps to understand your child’s questions and current thinking before trying to educate them.
“Babies are born from the stomach of the mother. The baby is made inside the uterus in the mother’s stomach; babies don’t have to get into their mother’s belly”, says Dr Bhat. This can encourage your child to answer further questions or satisfy their curiosity for the time being depending on their age.
3. What are periods and why do only girls get them?
Here, the facts work the best. With social stigma and taboos being associated with menstruation, it’s best to talk openly about this topic. Dr Bhat advises on keeping it concise, “Periods are the normal process of removal of the lining of the uterus in girls; this happens normally once in 4 weeks. This causes bleeding during periods and since only girls have a uterus, they are the ones who get their periods”.
4. Why am I growing hair in my armpits and around my genital area?
Puberty is another tricky phase of growing up that can give birth to a ton of questions. And if your child comes to you for answers, it’s a positive sign. It shows that he or she trusts you the most and that’s quite an accomplishment with teenagers.
You can simply answer it with, “The process of hair growth around the genitals and in armpits is part of growing up called ‘puberty’. During puberty, there are changes in the body triggered due to biological chemicals called ‘hormones’ found in all of us” says Dr Bhat.
5. Why are my friend’s parents divorced? What does it mean?
This question can be a tough one. It’s not that easy to explain why some couples get separated and divorced. If it’s someone specific your child is asking about, try to be honest without giving out private details.
“People who get married sometimes cannot get along with each other due to various reasons. That is why they may decide to separate, and that is called a divorce. It does not mean that the parents do not love each other or don’t love their kids.” This is the best way to answer this question according to Dr Bhat.
6. Why do people die? Where do people go when they die?
Though death is inherently a dark topic, answering such questions is vital. Dr Bhat advises on explaining it with analogies and examples that your child can easily understand.
“Each person is a biological machine with various parts. As we become older, just like in any machine, our parts start ageing. This can lead to many vital parts, like the heart, to stop working; this is called death. When people die their physical body is destroyed but they live on as a memory forever.”
7. Why do babies drink milk from mommy and not daddy? What is breastfeeding?
“Mommy has a special part called breast that can give milk, which the daddy doesn’t have. That’s the reason why only mommy can feed a baby. A baby, which cannot eat food by itself, gets all of its nutrition from mommy through breastfeeding.” This is a clear and concise way of answering your kid’s questions about breastfeeding, says Dr Bhat. It helps destigmatise breastfeeding as well as normalises it.
8. What does ‘we can’t afford it’ mean?
“When your parents say we can’t afford that means the thing that you want needs too much money to buy, and so it can’t be bought for you right away” states Dr Bhat. The concept of money might be familiar to your child but rich and poor, affordable and expensive might not be. Explaining to them your monthly budget and how some things don’t fit into it can help. If your child is old enough to understand, provide them with some basic financial education.
9. What tips would you recommend for answering tricky questions?
Dr Bhat shares some invaluable tips for parents and grandparents on how to handle kids’ questions.
- Be open to all questions
- Never laugh or mock the kid for asking questions
- Always try to answer the kid’s questions in an honest manner
- Never give false answers because that can lead to loss of trust between you and the child
- The best way to learn is to say that you don’t know the answer but that both of you can find out using books or the internet
10. What would be the steps involved when handling your child’s curiosity about such subjects?
Always remember the following, says Dr Bhat. A child who asks questions and is curious is looking up to you as the responsible adult to help guide him or her to the right answer. Therefore the question itself may be unimportant but how you answer leads to a very happy healthy and good relationship between you and the child.