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I seem to have a very inquisitive child who is constantly asking questions. I have been quite shocked recently at some of them as they can be extremely difficult to answer. I know I often stumble with my words and probably make no sense at all. Can you offer any advice?

The first thing to say is that however hard it might be for us to answer these difficult questions, it is a sign of a good relationship that your children are able to ask you them in the first place. Now, to go about answering them . . . 

There is no one right way to answer questions that all families should follow. We should seize these opportunities of communication as a way to transmit our values to our children and to connect emotionally to them. Many of these difficult questions have a multitude of answers and as parents we need to help our children feel comfortable with uncertainty and with many points of view. 

The first step to answering difficult questions it not to appear shocked or embarrassed about it! However hard it may be for you, it could well have been very hard for the child to ask them in first place. You don’t want them to be scared off and never ask you again. This would lead to them feeling disconnected from you and will then probably turn to their peers who are often as clueless as they are. The key is to answer appropriately. Tell the truth but perhaps not all the truth. Children do not need to know everything – too much information can be damaging to a child. What you consider to be too much information is highly individual. It is useful to ask yourself: 

  • Will this information contribute to my children’s sense of security and confidence? 
  • Will they be able to cope with the information well? 

On the other hand, is it possible that the children will find out the information in another way and feel cheated? 

Will the ‘secret’ create an emotional barrier between them and ourselves or other people?

It is appropriate to say that some information is private and it is equally appropriate to admit that you might not know the answer to the question. Sometimes you might need to think more deeply about the questions being asked and can tell your child that you need to go away and will come back to them later. 

Honesty is still the best policy and it is up to you to decide what degrees this should be taken.