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5 strategies to answer the (super) difficult questions of children: NPR



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I know she's dead, but when does Grandma come back?

Why is your skin darker than Mom's?

Why do we live here but not dad?

Are you the tooth fairy?

Anyone with children in his life knows what it is to be surprised by a difficult question. This can happen anytime, often when you least expect it: at breakfast, at bedtime or in the back seat.

We are parents ourselves, and it is these issues – and the delicate panic they arouse – that have brought us – that led us to create a new series of parenting guides for the Living Kit. NPR, a family of podcasts dedicated to transforming you a little in life. a little easier.

The podcast of the life kit, Parenting: Difficult Conversations, with the help of Sesame Workshop, replete with proven strategies to help you navigate conversations about death, race and other delicate topics. Best of all, we have the help of in-house child development experts at Sesame Workshop. These are the people who examine every word that comes out of a Muppet 's mouth to make sure it' s as useful as possible for kids. This year, Sesame Street celebrating its 50th season, so you know that they know what they're doing.

Parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers are busy. We understood. So we decided to summarize some of what we have learned so far, no matter what type of question you are having.

1. When you have a difficult question, listen to what the child is really request.

Do not rush to answer. Take a break and ask for clarification. That's a few things. First, it gives you the time to choose your words carefully. It also prevents you from answering the wrong question.

Rosemarie Truglio, a development psychologist and senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop, said her 8-year-old son Lucas came home and asked, "Santa Claus is it real? "

She answered with a simple question: "Why are you asking?"

"They may not ask what you think they are asking for," says Truglio. "You may be about to give them too much information that they do not want and that they are not ready. Take a break before answering and make sure you answer correctly. to the question with the right amount of information that they can handle at the moment. "

It turned out that Lucas doubted Santa because other kids at school had expressed their skepticism, but, Truglio said, he was trying to be reassured. And thanks to his quick thinking, that's what he's had.

We will highlight this point by a little joke that has gone around the Internet:

"Where does the poo come from?" asks a little boy.

"Well, my son," said his father, "the food passes into the esophagus by peristalsis, it enters the stomach, where the digestive enzymes induce a probiotic reaction in the digestive tract. contract the protein before the waste enters the colon.The water is absorbed, on which it enters the rectum to finally emerge in poop. "

"Wow," said the boy. "So where does Tigger come from?"

2. Give them facts, but at a pace that they can handle.

Whether you are aware of the latest news about the death of a loved one, a loss of employment or a serious illness, it is important to understand that children treat the information a little at a time. This means that you should be ready to come back to the subject, maybe several times.

An employee of a hospice specializing in dialogue with children about death gave this advice to Truglio de Sesame: Children receive the information in the same way that they eat an apple. Instead of chewing all the fruit in one sitting, they nibble, take breaks, then come back.

Dave Anderson, director of programs at the Child Mind Institute, a national non-profit organization for children's mental health, says we sometimes have to adjust our expectations when we broadcast heavy news. "A young child goes pretty fast."

Anderson remembers a couple who was worried about telling his son his diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "They feared that he did not feel the weight of stigma." Instead, his response was "OK, where are we going for dinner?"

This also applies to topics that are not so difficult. Once, Anya spoke with my six-year-old daughter about the season and why it gets colder in the winter. I may have been a little monologue. My daughter spoke: "Mom, it's a bit odd to have an answer without asking any questions."

3. "It's a great question, let's discover more together."

This is a good answer to take for complex questions: science, history, race, sex, politics, scary incidents in the news or whenever a question surprises you.

"We can say: Let's explore this together because this issue is really important," said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of US social impact at Sesame Workshop. "Let's go to the library and look at a few books, maybe we're looking for movies or movies or get recommendations from our teachers or librarians." Because everything does not have to be in the moment. "

Maybe you do not like the way you initially responded to your child's question. Do not worry. You can also go back and ask a question: "I think more about what you asked and I would like us to find more answers together."

This approach allows you to get out of trouble – so you avoid inventing something you may regret later. "We often think that as parents, we must always have the answer in the moment," said Betancourt. "And the thing is, we do not do it, and it's good, we're still good parents."

4. Reassure them that they are safe and loved.

Often, when children are struggling with a scary or uncertain subject, their questions have a fundamental motivation: What will happen to me? Will I be safe? Am I supported? These are the questions you must answer, even if they are not asked explicitly.

If it's a school that pulls the news, they want to know if their own school is safe. You can talk about everything adults do to keep them safe.

If it's a divorce, they need to hear that both parents still love them and that the split is not their fault. In addition, "both parents discussing consistency and routines would be very helpful," says Betancourt.

If it's the death of a loved one, says Truglio, "make sure they know that there are a lot of people in their lives who are like family." you will always be supported. "

5. Take care of yourself and do not be afraid to share your emotions.

We adults need our own support system – and our time – when dealing with difficult issues.

"Without taking care of ourselves, it is very difficult to help our children," Betancourt says.

For example, if your family is attending a funeral, you can ask a good friend or an extended family member to help keep your children, yourself.

But that does not mean that we as adults need to "isolate ourselves from our grief" or any other feeling, says Truglio. Her mother died several years ago and she says that she is still experiencing moments of mourning. Recently, she says, she cried in front of her son and did not hesitate to explain, "I'm sad because I miss Grandma."

This simple statement is really helpful for kids, says Anderson of the Child Mind Institute. "We do not tell parents to suppress their emotions, but if a parent feels emotional, the emotional functioning of their own child makes it very useful, so it is labeled and revealed."

Listen to all our Parenting: Difficult Conversations episodes here.

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