Parents, be prepared: Children start asking life's big questions at this age
'Where did I come from?' and 'how are babies made?' are just a couple of the questions parents dread getting asked across the dinner table, before they've had time to consider their answer.
To avoid being caught off guard, mums and dads should start readying their responses to life's tricky questions before their child turns six, according to new research, as this is the average age for kids to start wondering about the birds and the bees.
Early preparation, however, could be key, as around 12% of children start wondering about birth from as young as four, suggests the poll, by comparethemarket.com.
When faced with a flustered encounter about the origin of babies, a resolute four in 10 (40%) parents say they answer their child openly and honestly, but around a third (32%) simply explain babies are born when two people love each other very much, and a shell-shocked one in 10 say they’re picked up at the baby shop.
Parents also fessed up to some of the other birth-related questions their kids have posed, from 'If you chose me from birth, why didn’t you choose another baby?' to 'Did we come from the moon?'
As for other probing questions from confused little minds, such as 'how much do you earn?' and 'why do I have to go to school?' a healthy 59% of parents say they answer such questions honestly; while 24% dilute their answers to make it easier for their children to understand.
Around 11% avoid the truth completely because they think their kids are still a bit too young for the answers.
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So how can parents best manage these sometimes tricky questions?
When faced with probing questions from children many parents may feel flustered about how to reply, but Sue Roffey, psychologist and co-author of Creating the World We Want to Live In, says there are many positives to children seeking answers.
"It’s great when kids ask these questions, because it shows they’re curious and learning about things happening around them," she says.
"But of course, depending on how old they are, it’s hard knowing when to tell them the full truth! Ultimately, you know best how well your kid understands things, and whether it’s time to be totally honest with them, or just give them what they need for now."
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As a starting point Roffey suggests parents first try to understand what their children already know and maybe how they found out.
"It is always better to answer difficult questions with simple straightforward facts," she says. "But you do not need to go into detail.
"Imagination is powerful for children and some of this can be quite negative - it is always better to give the facts calmly. Kids can accept so much more than you think."
Dr Ivana Poku, Motherhood Life Coach agrees that it is better children learn about tricky topics from their parents, as opposed to picking up titbits of, often incorrect, information from their pals in the playground.
"However, it also depends on the specific question," she explains. "When it comes to babies and where they come from, then it is definitely better to open this subject before they ask."
When tackling subjects such as birth and where babies come from, Roffey says there are many excellent books around, which are great for introducing the discussion.
"My own children watched a TV programme about birth with me when they were two and foour," she says. "They were entirely unfazed and I never had to explain things."
Roffey adds that some youngsters are accessing porn at a young age so need conversations about consent and the importance of healthy relationships in the primary years at the latest.
Dr Amanda Gummer, psychologist and founder of The Good Play Guide suggests letting children lead the discussion.
"Leave answers open ended so children can ask more questions if they have them," she says. "And make sure you don’t over-load young children with too much detail or adult anxieties around world issues."
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How to answer your kids’ big questions
Whatever your stance, it’s definitely difficult knowing exactly how to respond when your kid starts quizzing you on life’s biggest questions. Dr Poku has shared her top tips for tackling each tricky topic that could arise on the school run.
Where do babies come from?
It’s really important to tell kids the truth about this question – but keep it simple.
"Something that works really well with this question is reading books on the subject," Dr Poku says.
"Obviously how much detail it goes into depends on how old your kid is. Younger kids will love seeing pictures of babies in mummy’s tummy, and when they ask questions about how it felt, it’ll only help to support bonding and trust."
How much are things worth?
If children want to know how much expensive items like houses or cars cost, you could try and answer with “how much do you think?”, and then take it from there.
"Another tack is to say that, in your opinion, houses are priceless because they put a roof over your head, then ask if they agree with you," Dr Poku suggests. "The key here is to be creative and playful, but make sure you always consider your child’s age."
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What do you do for a living, and how much do you earn?
If your kid asks what you do for a living, then be honest. They’ll likely understand more than you realise, so if they don’t get what your job entails, go ahead and explain it to them.
"If you avoid the answer on the assumption they won’t understand, it could break the trust between the two of you or affect their natural curiosity and confidence," she adds.
When it comes to salary Dr Poku suggests answering this with their age in mind. "You can always be open and honest, without giving away too much detailed information," she adds.
Why do we have to go to school?
This is a great question that allows parents to get their kids excited about school through play, so Dr Poku suggests using it to your advantage.
"You could look up all the benefits of going to school online and play a game with the answers, or why not draw pictures together and hang them up in their bedroom," she says. "Ultimately, you’ll know what works best for your kid, so choose an activity you know they’ll enjoy."