Handling Your Child's Mature Questions

SMU Psychology Professor George Holden talks about handling mature questions from young children, especially when they are taking a very literal approach to a concern.

As children get older, the questions they pose and the answers offered, get more and more complicated. If you find yourself groping blindly for an appropriate response, you aren’t alone. How you respond is important, not because what you say has to be perfect, but because how you say it can greatly shape not only how the child understands the subject being broached, but also the relationship you share.

So what’s a parent to do when the questions get harder and the answers don’t come so readily? Mom Lori Lunz has had many conversations with her 6-year-old biological daughter about the son their family adopted as a newborn. Even though it’s been more than a year since he arrived, Lunz still finds her daughter perplexed by the idea that she is indeed his mother.

“She has asked me more than once, how can I think that I’m his real mom if he didn’t come out of my body,” says Lunz.  “That’s what really makes you the real mom, right?” her daughter will say.

Lunz’s daughter’s literal approach to information is typical of children around that age. 

George Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University explains that because of the cognitive ability of children around the ages of 6-8 years old, they adhere to pretty rigid categories for people and things.

“They like to have very black and white distinctions. It is how their brain is helping them make sense of the world,” says Holden. As children grow, this limited understanding evolves, and so do the nature and complexity of the questions they ask.

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