What To Do When Your Child Asks The Unthinkable! by Chris Falcon
Like many children, my 5 year old son can get pretty philosophical before bed. Some of the questions he asks, while trying to delay the inevitable "lights out" would have Socrates and Aristotle scratching their heads. On any given night he can cover everything from how stars are formed, to the validity of apparitions, all in one stretch. Now whether or not he is stalling, or genuinely curious is up for debate. But the question herein lies... what do you do when your child asks you a question that has you struggling for answers?
Question 1: "Dada, is it true that everybody dies?"
Answer: "Well buddy, people are born, people live, and people die. It is all a part of the experience of life."
Now even though my son still carries a blankie to bed, and believes that giants live at the top of skyscraper like beanstalks, he is still capable of grappling with some pretty profound concepts. The first thing we need to do as parents is remember to validate their curiosity by giving the moment our full attention. Even though our children are short on life experience, doesn't mean their ability to observe, and question their reality is in any way inferior to ours. If anything, it is we as parents that often end up having our minds expanded when our children present the inner workings of their imaginations.
Question 2: "If everybody dies, what will happen to the earth?"
Answer: "Well bud, everybody doesn't die at once. We take turns so that there is always someone to keep the earth safe."
Some Psychiatrists believe that you shouldn't fluff up the realities of life, or death for that matter, when discussing tough topics with young children. They believe you run the risk of sending mixed messages that can have unintended harmful affects on the child. Although this is good advice, the reality is that most parents are going to answer these questions in accordance with their own personal parenting style. In my house, that style is to tell the kids the truth in an age appropriate way whenever possible, but there are definitely times when a little fluff is in order.
Question 3: "But what if everyone does die at once? Then what will happen?"
Answer: "Well buddy, if everyone does die at once then I think we will have cows driving buses, bears flying airplanes, and monkeys teaching math to penguins!" (abruptly followed up with a tickle session)
Sometimes you may surprise yourself with how well you handle these late night inquisitions, but there do come those times when you wish you could call someone to bail you out. In those situations, I like to deflect and redirect. I tend to lean toward deflecting with humor because that's what comes natural to me. I try to get my kids to laugh, and follow that up with something physical like a tickle session, or a toss in the air. I then redirect the conversation by bringing up something more palatable, like Ninja Turtles, or Power Rangers.
In my experience, life typically boils down to two things...what is right, and what is real. The right way to answer your child's question might not always pop up. What's real is that you are going to have to respond in some way. Even if you choose to say nothing, you are still sending a message to your child. Take the time to decide what parenting approach feels most comfortable for you. This way when your little philosopher asks you a tough question, you won't be caught off guard.
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." ~Benjamin Franklin
Chris Falcon is a Certified Youth Exercise Specialist, founder of Reactive Performance Enhancement Center, and creator of The Multi-Mode Method of Eating™. He is dedicated to helping people feel their best through healthy living on all levels.