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Communicating With Children: Difficult Questions

Communicating With Children: Difficult Questions

When you are caring for your relative’s children, they may ask difficult questions such as:

  • “When is mommy coming back?”
  • “Why is daddy in jail?”
  • “Where do people go when they die?
  • “Are you going to get sick/die soon?”

These concerns loom very large for children. Children want direct answers to questions, but if your communication style with the child is not developed, these conversations can be even harder than they are naturally.

In general, it is easier to talk at a child than to talk with them. It’s easy to tell a child what to do, and often when they ask difficult questions a first reaction could be something like, “You are too young to understand.” Such a response will shut the door to the conversation and perhaps make your life easier in the moment, but does not foster a productive and open space for which to have difficult conversations. Some children will even avoid asking you questions if they think it will make you angry or uncomfortable. This is too much for the child to hold. A better solution is to create safe space and work on communicating with the child.

Communication building responses:

  • “What do you think?”
  • “That is a good question, lets talk about it together.”
  • “I don’t know but let’s find out.”
  • “It sounds like you are feeling [upset/angry/sad/frustrated] right now, lets talk.”

Address the present emotion, and keep your responses age-appropriate. Don’t lead the child to believe something false by providing hope where there is not.

Another important step is to try to elicit more information from the child, in order to see what information they were really trying to learn or tell us. If a child asks something like, “What is sex?” it is important to try to draw some additional information from the child with a response such as:  “Good question, what led you to ask me that?”

The important thing is to work on actively listening to your child, to make it safe to ask questions, and to answer as directly as you can while eliciting additional information. Next week we will discuss talking about painful news and assessing readiness to disclose secrets.

If you are raising your relative’s children and would like additional support or resources in Clark County, NV- give us a call today at (702) KIN-9988 or email We are here to listen to you!

Source: Empowering Grandchildren Raising Grandchildren.