Answering difficult questions children ask about life

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Answering difficult questions children ask about life

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At some point in our life as parents we discover that children are going to begin to ask us hard questions. Those hard questions might be about war, about homelessness, and we wonder, how can we talk to children about those hard topics? Sometimes children might hear something on a television, sometimes they might hear it from their friends, and we want to be sure that children feel that they can come and talk to us about those things. When children ask the first question, I sometimes say back, "What do you think about homelessness?" I want to get their idea about it. Because children generally ask questions when they have their own hypothesis about it. And I don't know how to answer the question until I know what the child is really asking. And a child may say, "Well, I saw a man who was sitting on the street and he was asking for money." And again, I might ask some more questions. "What do you think was happening with that man? What are you concerned about?" One of the things we want children to be able to do is express their concerns. They have a natural sense of compassion and justice in the world. And so one of the things that I wanted to do in my family when children expressed their concerns about things in the world was to talk about things that they could do or to talk about things that I was doing or to talk about things that people I knew were doing. And so I might say, "You know, there's people in our city who are working to provide places for people to live. There's people in our city that are working to provide jobs for people, so that they can get jobs. What do you think we should do when people are homeless?" This gives children a chance to be active, to be thoughtful, to feel empowered in relationship to things that are going on in the world. So at the same time, that sometimes we need to talk about hard things that we also talk about what kind of action are people taking? What kind of action would you like to take in relationship to this problem?

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Janis Keyser, MA

Early Childhood Education Specialist & Author

Janis Keyser currently works as a site director for a child development program in Mountain View, California. She was a full-time faculty member in the Early Childhood Education Department at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California for 30 years, teaching children, teachers and parents and coordinating a state demonstration infant toddler program. She has written a resource book for parents and one for teachers; and is a nationally recognized speaker at parenting, family and child development conferences, and has conducted workshops nationally and internationally for parents and teachers for over 35 years. She enjoys swimming, kayaking, photography, family games and cooking with friends of all ages.

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