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How to answer your child’s uncomfortable questions honestly

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Explaining grown-up lyrics & strange noises

Nothing can make you regret becoming a parent more than being questioned by your kid at an inopportune time. Be honest with them now and remember: someday they'll be teenagers, and you'll get your payback by being their embarrassing mom.

Curious child

Photo credit: dimafoto / Istock / 360 / Getty images

We've all had that OMG moment when your kid's curiosity got the best of him and he floored you into stunned silence while you figured out the answer. If honesty is the best policy, how do you remain truthful without taking away your child's innocence? Carefully.

1

Why is that dirty guy sitting on the corner?

Of course, you want to create a sympathetic child, but you might not be ready to expose them to the harsh realities of life, like mental illness or politics. Most important, youth is probably not the time to enter into a spiel about how that guy might use people's money for alcohol or how the system is failing its people.

Honest answer: "You know how sometimes Mommy has a bad day? He's just had a lot of bad days in a row. How about we go get him a Happy Meal? That always cheers you up, right?"

2

What does he mean? (In response to a risqué pop song)

Er-r-r. You thought they were playing Angry Birds and not paying any attention as you sang along to "A-Team," "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky." You can still be honest, but you'll need to be vague for now.

Honest answer: "Well, it's fun when you get a lucky win at a game, right? They're just staying up all night to have fun." For a slightly older kid, "Remember how you learned about drugs in school? This song is about a girl who is addicted to them and sick. The singer feels bad that he doesn't know how to make her better."

3

Why do you and Daddy make so much noise in your bedroom?

Jeez, guys! Keep it down in there, will ya? Now is probably not the time to have "the talk," and something like "having tickle fights" could warrant an unexpected visitor the next time your kiddo hears those noises.

Honest answer: "Just how sometimes you need a hug after a bad day, sometimes mommies and daddies need time together. And you know Daddy is always loud, right?"

4

How come you, Dad and big sister get to stay up later than me?

Tired of hearing your screaming mini-me complain about how unfair life is when it's time for bed? Instead of focusing on age or how his attitude is awful when he doesn't get enough sleep, focus on how he's too important to go without.

Honest answer: "You're way busier than your sister. You have school and homework. You run around at recess, and when you get home, you chase Spot all over the yard. Plus, you have ballet/soccer/archery. How can you possibly have all that fun if you're super-tired? You've gotta rest that noggin."

5

Why do people come in different colors?

Or the more embarrassing (and at full volume), "Why is that person so brown/so white/wearing that thing on their head?" The only thing you can do is smile apologetically to the stranger and make sure to use the opportunity to teach love and acceptance.

Honest answer: "People look different all the time. People have different hair colors, eye colors and skin colors. We come in all shapes and sizes. We're all the same on the inside, though, so we should treat everyone kindly." Note: Don't guess where Timmy is from. Please. Pick an example you're 100 percent sure on to avoid any angry phone calls from Timmy's parents.

6

Why is that person in a wheelchair? (or just a blanket "What's wrong with that person?")

This is usually said at the mall while your perfect angel points her finger at a perfect stranger, making you feel ashamed of yourself for not pushing that "inside voice" thing and teaching her not to point. Don't get frustrated. Answer with love and it'll smooth things over with the stranger rolling by and with your curious kiddo.

Honest answer: "Sometimes people are born with problems that can't be fixed. Or maybe they were in a car accident and the doctor couldn't fix them. It's important to remember to smile at them, but not to stare. And just like you should if you see a friend having a problem, make sure to help if you see they're having a problem opening a door or picking up something they dropped."

7

Why does Jake have two dads/moms instead of a mom and a dad?

This doesn't have to be tough, but can be for people of certain religions. But, a young age might not be the best time to go into detail on your religion's specific beliefs.

Honest answer: "Love comes in all kinds of different ways. Just how you love me different than you love your sister and how you love your stuffed rabbit, Mr. Hobbs, or Mr. Turtle. Jake's moms loved each other enough to get married and have a family."

8

Why do you and Dad fight?

Whatever you do, don't use this as an opportunity to tell your child what you really think of your annoying husband. Use this as a chance to reassure them that everything will be OK.

Honest answer: "Sometimes we don't agree on things. We annoy each other sometimes, like how your little sister annoys you. But you still love her and we still love each other."

Never an uncomfortable moment, sponsored by Sanuk.

Tell us:

What kinds of questions have you been stuck answering truthfully, but not smoothly?

More tips on talking and bonding with your kids

The birds and the bees and all that jazz
Talking to kids about tragedy
Are you emotionally neglecting your children?

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