When Big Questions Come from Little People

This is a guest post by Kym Carter. Kym is a dynamic and engaging speaker who has a passion for families and for God’s Word. Kym is President and Co-Founder of Legacy Moms, a non-profit ministry founded in 2006, which believes women are called to pass on Biblical Truth from one generation to the next. Kym has worked as a television producer, writer, and on-camera talent.

If you have been a parent for more than a couple of years, then you have more than likely experienced that awkward moment when a difficult question comes from your sweet little angel. Sometimes the questions are simply funny and bit embarrassing, other times they are deep, and then there are the times when those tough questions are adult in nature and leave us a bit shocked.

After many years of parenting our own three children, advising hundreds of parents, and teaching seminars, my husband and I have found that there are a few key things to consider when those questions arise. Here are some tips to help you respond in a way that is productive and appropriate, yet keep the line of communication open between parent and child.

1. Don’t freak out. OK, you might be freaking out on the inside, but don’t show that you are shocked. Your overreaction draws too much attention to it. Sure, Little Emily may have just said a word you hope to never hear her say again, but remain calm. Move to No. 2.

2. Seek to understand the real question being asked. Sometimes kids think they know what they are saying and mean something else. Ask a follow-up question before you respond such as, “What do you mean?” or “Where did you hear that?” A friend once told me that after I gave her this advice, her young son asked her, “Mom, what’s SEX?” She asked follow-up questions and found out that he had looked at a form that asked for the sex of the person. She was so glad she didn’t jump in with a bunch of info he wasn’t even asking for!

3. Before you answer, stop to consider the physical, moral, and spiritual maturity of your child.

It sounds simple, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, a parent will get a question and then panic and give a detailed answer and forget that the child is only 3!

For example, when a 10-year-old asks, “How do the babies get in the mom’s tummy?” this is not the same question as if it had come from a 3-year-old and therefore doesn’t require the same response.

4. Answer your child based on their need to know and their ability to understand. It’s important to note that your child might have one and not the other.

5. Be careful to not be too descriptive, too soon, about adult issues.

As parents, we do need to prepare our children by teaching them about all the facts of life, but don’t rush that! When they are young, we should protect them from adult issues that are too much for them to handle and give them the gift of a childhood. What a shame it is for parents to force their children into adulthood by forcing them to deal with adult issues too soon.

Many years ago, I heard a story about Corey Ten Boom that went something like this: When Corey was a little girl, she was travelling with her father, who had a case of watches and spare parts that was very heavy with him. As they were unloading, she asked him to tell her what sexual sin was. At that point, he told her to carry his case of watches. “It’s too heavy for me,” she responded. He agreed with her and told her that he would be a terrible father to ask his little girl to carry the heavy load of an adult. Then he explained that the same is true with knowledge. Some knowledge is just too heavy for children to carry.

We used this story with our children and explained to them that their hearts are like suitcases. As they grow, we will help them “pack” everything they need in their suitcase that they will need to live as an adult. However, we would explain to them that we wouldn’t put anything in their suitcase until they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready to carry it. When they asked a question that would be too much for them, we simply responded, “That is too big for your suitcase right now.”

Believe me, there were also times when we started to explain something and they decided it was more than they wanted to know at that time and would reply with, “Whoa … OK! That’s enough for my suitcase for now!” and we respected their decisions as well!

As scary as it is, when your kids come to you for information, that is exactly where you want them to go—so welcome it! Have an open-door policy and let them know that you are their advocate and have their best in mind, even when that means carrying the heavy things a bit longer. No one is better equipped to decide when and how to answer the tough questions than you, because no one knows your child and your values better than you! And hey, don’t worry about having a “big talk.” It’s really an 18-year-long conversation anyway.