One of the most wonderful, and squirm-inducing things about being a kid is that you are willing to ask difficult questions. Call it a lifestyle, call it a hobby, call it a calling…whatever. Young minds (especially really young ones) have no problem digging up the really juicy questions, and throwing them into the conversation at the most inopportune moments.
Here’s just a small sampling of what parents have told us about:
- Where was I before I was born?
- Why do grown-ups automatically get to decide things all the time?
- I can’t get my brain to stop thinking. Can a brain stop thinking?
- How do I know that things don’t disappear when I close my eyes?
It requires bravery to take on these kinds of questions, bravery that kids seem to have in excess, and that adults seem to have lost over time. Nevertheless, it’s profoundly important that those of us with a few more years behind us find the courage to talk about these things with our children. Here’s why:
- Kids aren’t likely to stop asking. It’s just how humans are built when we’re small. We can start a conversation when they ask, or we put them off, but they will keep pondering, even if it’s only inside their heads.
- We don’t have to know the answers (whew). In fact, it might be better if we don’t, and if we fess up to it. Great conversations can start with “I’m not sure. Let’s talk about it.”
- There are a great deal of important thinking skills to be developed through the asking and discussing of big questions. Children can learn active listening, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.
- It can be a bonding experience between big and small people. If a child knows they can ask these big (albeit awkward and difficult) questions with you, they’re more likely to come to us with their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis.
- Maybe we’ve forgotten this as we’ve grown up, but big questions are big fun. When was the last time you played with an idea, just for the pleasure of it? Taking on big questions can be another form of play time with your kids.
Big lesson: please don’t let your fear of being wrong, or not knowing, or even being stumped by your kid, stand in the way of a great conversation, and an even greater learning opportunity. Be brave, be bold, be curious, and be open-minded.