'Why am I not a unicorn?': How to answer strange and uncomfortable children's questions
Source: Life hacker
Every day, on the way to kindergarten, my daughter and I meet several kids who manage to go through the entire cycle of learning about the world: intense interest in some phenomenon → questioning parents → reciprocal silence → loss of interest, Andrei Borodkin writes for "Lifehacker".
Children's curiosity peaks at age four. At this point, parents often feel hopeless, desperate to find answers to all why. Studies show that curious children ask an average of 73 questions per day. Moreover, the "interrogation" of parents sometimes begins at 6 am and does not stop until the evening sleep. Parents do not answer half of these questions. And a third of the 1 mothers and fathers surveyed in the UK said they were exhausting asking such questions. But four out of ten noticed that they are proud of the curiosity of their children.
The author of the study, psychologist Sam Wass, says that as he grows up, the child shows interest in the world around him, and this is natural. Adults forget what they were like in childhood and often do not realize how important their answers are.
According to Harvard University psychologist Paul Harris, children ask about 40 questions between the ages of two and five. And a study by the University of Michigan in the USA found that children ask so many questions not at all in order to annoy their parents (although sometimes this is difficult to believe). They want an explanation of why things are like that. For a kid who is just getting to know the world, everything around is a stunning discovery. And the little researcher needs to understand this somehow.
What do children want to know? Here are the most common questions I hear from my daughter or on the “road of questions” to kindergarten, and tips on how to answer them.
1. Where do children come from?
The main thing here is how old the child is asking the question. Because for each age, a certain amount of detail is acceptable. It is also important to understand that modern children are knowledgeable individuals, and they cannot be satisfied with the legends of storks and cabbage. The approximate correct answer is: “My mother and I liked each other, got married, and soon you appeared in the tummy. You grew, became more and more, and then you were born. " This is the answer for a three year old. Add or subtract the right amount of detail according to age.
It is not worth describing everything in colors. “I remember that cold winter evening when my mother and I and her friend ...” - this is not worth saying. Limit yourself to the story of what the child asked. Psychologists say that the question of the relationship between father and mother for the baby is so important that it even affects vocabulary. Therefore, it is not necessary to tell everything in the smallest detail.
2. Am I going to die?
The main thing here is not to panic and understand that the fear of death in children is normal. Most likely, the kid asks the question because of this fear. Therefore, you should not make a taboo out of the topic. An approximate answer sounds like this: “You are the most beloved person in the world for me, I wish you only the best. But all of us, animals and humans, become old and die. Only this will not happen soon. "
There is no need to hide and hush up the fact of death. But you don't need to go to the cemetery on purpose either. Don't be the first to talk to your child about death, follow him and wait for the question.
3. What will happen after death?
Until the age of three or four, children think in images, so the answer to this question will be quite figurative. For example: "People after death sit on a cloud and watch us." No matter how trite it may sound. Alternative versions can be discussed with older children.
It is not worth describing the technical details of death. The process of burial and burial should not be described in bright colors, since the baby's psyche may not cope with such pictures.
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4. Whom do you love more, me or your brother (sister, mom, dad)?
Most likely, with such a question the child attracts attention to himself. Psychologists Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, who gained worldwide fame as experts on communication with children (their works have been translated into 24 languages) in the book “Brothers and Sisters. How to help your children to live together ”are advised to convince the baby that you love everyone in your own way. Tell him: “I love you and my brother (sister, mom, dad) very much. It's just that this is a different love - for a mother, daughter, son, because it is impossible to love everyone equally, we are all individual. " Equalization often offends the child. And also use the principle of the answer question. Ask at the end: "What do you think?" This way you will find out the motives of the child. Perhaps he was offended by a specific situation where you are wrong.
You shouldn't single out someone. Don't say that someone in the family deserves more of your love than a child. Any wrongdoing does not cancel the parent's unconditional love. On the other hand, there is no need to exalt the baby to the skies and emphasize his exclusivity. According to experts, this can only do harm.
5. Does Santa Claus (God) exist?
This is exactly the case when you can honestly admit that you do not know the answer. Something like this: “Nobody knows for sure if Santa Claus (God) exists. Some people believe in it, while others do not. " You can also give an example of relatives or acquaintances with other points of view.
Don't look for the "correct" answer. On this question it does not exist. Do not forget about tolerance, differences of opinion and the right to opinion.
6. Why are you and your dad (mom) fighting?
If a child asks this question, most likely, he has already witnessed a quarrel between his parents and feels guilty. Therefore, the answer should be something like this: “You and I also sometimes quarrel when we cannot agree on something, but we always make peace. It's the same with dad (mom). Excuse us for this quarrel. "
You should not sort things out and insult each other in the presence of children. If you accuse or call the other parent of something with the child, the baby will look for the causes of the conflict in himself. Since he has not yet learned to separate himself from his father and mother.
7. Why is the sky blue (why the grass is green, where does the rainbow come from)?
It is necessary to understand that if the answer itself is important for adults, then for a child in such questions it is a search for it, interactive with parents. Therefore, the answer should be: “I seem to remember that the grass is of all colors, but we see it green. Let's check and look in the encyclopedia or the Internet? " This is an excuse to get better yourself, figure out something together, expand your knowledge and practice your skills. The search for answers can strengthen the relationship with the child and captivate so much that the question itself becomes unimportant.
You should not throw in scientific terms and try to prove your superiority. This will only tire the child.
8. Why don't I have something that others have?
Try to explain to the child that you are trying for him, but it is impossible to have all the things of the world: “My mom (dad) and I are trying to make you have all the best. But people are different and they have different things. You have one, and your friends are different. "
You should not blame the child for what he is not yet able to understand. The kid does not want to offend you, but tries to understand the differences in the world around him. And it makes no sense to demand from him an understanding of your efforts or special gratitude.
9. How are boys and girls different?
If a child asks such a question, most likely, the child has already absorbed some stereotypes about the behavior of boys and girls. Neuroscience professor Liz Eliot, in her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain, advises focusing not on differences but on commonality. You can answer something like this: “Both boys and girls are hurt, hurt, or, conversely, joyful. They react to it in different ways and look different so that everyone is not the same. "
Don't repeat social stereotypes. It is tempting to say: "Boys never cry, and girls are always well-groomed and tidy." But this is not true, and when the kid sees examples, he will inundate you with more questions.
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10. What is sex? (Or another "non-childish" term)
It is difficult for parents to accept this, but you need to answer directly, unless the child is quite a baby. Psychologists say that even at three years old, answering “boys have a penis, and girls have a vagina, and they connect when people love each other” is better than hoping that the child will grow up and find out everything on his own.
Do not say "this is a bad word" or "grow up - you will find out." The child will still find the answer. It is likely that he will mislead him and affect his psychological development.
Bonus: why am I not flying (not a pony, not a unicorn)?
To adults, such questions seem absurd, but for children they are completely normal. Philosophers say that absurd questions make children look like scientists. And you need to answer so as not to kill the interest of the researcher in them: “People do not fly because they cannot overcome the force of gravity. Do you think this will be possible in the future? "
Do not laugh at such questions. The child believes everything that the parents say. The ridicule will make the baby think that his imagination is something shameful and unnecessary.
Why bother answering kids' questions
Because it is very important for the further development of the child. Scientists say that the mechanism of questions in children reflects the level of their cognitive development, and the answers remain in long-term memory. The frequency and content of questions show how the kid understands the structure of the world around him. Therefore, it is worth worrying if there are too few or no questions at all.
And also, to save the psyche of the parents. Because if you go away from the answers, the child's persistence will increase significantly. Studies show that children who receive truthful answers often agree with them. And the little ones who don't hear them ask the same question over and over until they get an explanation.