Written by: Patrick Sullivan
As Rousseau said so well, ‘nothing calls for a clearer head and a more careful choice of words than talking with children.’ Experience would have to prove this to me many times over and the recent birth of my sixth child, Sophia Perpetua, will bring about I am sure the next great example. Indeed, it may only be a matter of days before I am asked the question of questions, the kryptonite that frightens away many otherwise educated adults, ‘Dad, where do babies come from?’
But let’s be kind to ourselves. We are not afraid of the question as much as we are afraid of answering it incorrectly, or answering properly but too soon or something like that. We are afraid somehow when we open our mouths to speak we will somehow stunt the emotional or spiritual growth, or future relationships of our children. And even though this is very unlikely, I would like to offer myself and others one nugget of wisdom that continues to keep me grounded when it comes to talking with my children about anything serious. It goes like this, never answer a question that they are not asking.
Question: Dad, where do babies come from?
Answer: God, as He blesses a man and a woman who love each other.
Question: Well how does God put the baby in mom?
Answer: Good question. It has something to do with the mom and the dad. The closer and more loving moms and dads are to each other, the more it seems God will bless them with a baby.
Question: But my friend’s mom and dad really love each other. Why doesn’t my friend have any brothers and sisters?
Answer: Good point. Sometimes, even though a mom and dad love each other they do not actually want the gift of more children— which is sad I think, because children really are one of the best gifts that God can give. Or sometimes a mom and dad do want more children but there is something wrong with their bodies and they are not able to receive the gift of a child.
It is not perfect, but you get the point. The incremental approach to answering questions with children looks at what a child is actually saying and tries to meet the child right there. If the child wants to know more then he will let you know. But if you really want to be sure that he is satisfied just ask, ‘does that answer your question?’ If you have already shown that you are not afraid of his inquiries about life then your child will be honest with you. Remember, they are just kids, so don’t give them adult answers until they are in search of them.
—Parenting, by Catholic Chapter House.