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Who Is Answering Your Child’s Questions?

Smiling African American mother and her little daughter sitting in grass and talking.

The other day I heard a horrifying story from a community counselor which I feel compelled to share. A teenage girl one Monday evening came from school and asked her mother what “visiting the bush” was. Her mother feeling ambushed told her that she had no idea or probably she genuinely had no idea what it was; as this an upper class community we are talking about.  Her friends on the other hand kept telling her bits and pieces which piqued her curiosity to dangerous levels.

She decided to take matters in her own hands with the help of the maid next door. The duo planned for when there would be no parent at home to perform the ritual. The maid asked her for money to buy the stuff needed for the ritual which the eager girl gave appreciatively. The maid went and bought Mukene (silver fish) and some herbs which she ground and mixed. She added water and made a fluid which she put into the girl’s vagina using a funnel.

After the “ceremony”, the girl was so elated she went and bragged to her friends that she had also finally visited the bush. A few days later the girl started to give off a foul smell. The smell got worse that she was taken to the counselor who advised her to wash more carefully. Within a week she was attracting flies which swarmed around her all the time. By this time the problem couldn’t be ignored and she told her parents what she had done with the maid. The girl had to be flown abroad for specialized treatment.

 

As parents we have all been bombarded with questions from our children. Sometimes we have the discipline to answer honestly and sometimes we just honestly don’t know how to answer because we might not have the information ourselves. Believe me there are some questions that Google doesn’t have answers to, been there.

Not having a strong sense of who you are and how you want to parent can make you a little crazy and the craziness just gets aggravated by the curiosity of the people you are parenting.  We would all love to raise kids who are more confident but still grounded in reality and I believe the best way to do this is for parents  to curb, counsel, direct and equip their child with the kind of information that would be dangerous coming from other sources.

I don’t believe in permissive upbringing which is so rampant now, but there are questions that must be answered even at the risk of the parent looking indulgent.  There will be times when your child asks a question you wished you didn’t have to answer.  Your decision to answer it or not might make the difference between life and death. The first awkward question may be about death or where babies come from and unfortunately, the older our children get, the more difficult their questions seem to become to answer. Here are some tips on how to handle those tough questions that might make you want to abscond from your parenting duties.

We typically give our children more information than they need. Consider your child’s question carefully. If you can answer with a yes, no or because, leave it at that and see how your child responds. If it quenches her curiosity, move on. If she asks additional questions, only answer the questions she asks.

 

Answers have to be age appropriate. If your three year old asks where babies come from, an age-appropriate answer is that they grow in their mommies bellies. This answer will usually provide enough information to satisfy his curiosity. A five year old may come back with a follow-up question, like how do they come out. A simple, honest answer, like they travel through the birth canal and out the vagina, is an age-appropriate answer, although it may make your cringe inside when you give it. And when your ten year old asks, it may be time for the dreaded “birds and the bees” conversation where you won’t be able to leave much out.

Don’t get emotional. Presenting your answers in a matter-of-fact way will prevent you from sending the message that the topic is off-limits, wrong or uncomfortable to discuss. Remember you want your child to come to you with her questions. You also want your child to have confidence that you take her questions seriously, so avoid laughing or making snide remarks.

Don’t avoid answering. If you don’t want to answer your child’s question on the spot, tell him you will think about it and get back to him. If you avoid answering a question, your child, one way or another, will find out the answer on his own, and it may be an answer you would prefer him not to have.

Be honest. It can be tempting to tell your kids that the deceased dog went to the farm or that the stork dropped off the baby, but if you do, you’ll need to later explain the truth and why you weren’t truthful to begin with.

Difficult questions are called difficult questions for a reason. They challenge us to balance honesty with age-appropriateness, giving enough information without giving too much information and presenting the facts in a way our children can understand.

As parents you will be answering questions for a lifetime and of course it gets better with age. Equip yourself with necessary knowledge and pray that God gives you wisdom to guide your family in the right way.

Good luck.

 

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