Kids were created to love, cherish, and keep you humble. If you are an amazing parent with an amazing kid who’s never put you on the spot, just wait. None of us make it through their childhoods un-mortified. Sure, you know they will eventually ask you a question on one of life’s tough subjects, but reality is always a little worse than you expect.
Here are some tips on how to respond to the most embarrassing topics your kids will throw at you.
Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Ask, Listen, Learn.org on this sponsored post.
Answering the Questions About Sex
As much as I wish that fifth grade session where they separate the girls from the boys and show the movie about puberty handled all sex questions forever, we parents are not that lucky. We still have to—ugh—parent.
Well before children start puberty they will notice changes in the older kids in school. Or you or someone else close to your family will have a baby, a topic of great interest to little kids.
The best way to handle these questions are with factual information that is age appropriate. Find a great book about reproduction and read it first (so there are no surprises), then go over it together.
I urge you not to give cutesy answers, and also to ask follow up question to make sure your child understands you clearly. Using the word “seed” can really confuse a child whose only references for that are fruits and vegetables.
Dealing with Kids’ Questions About Their Changing Bodies
Once when I was the parent volunteer at Sunday School, the four-year-olds started talking about how all their mommies had hair on their “front bottoms”. I saw my own small, loud child about to join in this conversation when I shut it down with one of those Mommy Death Stares.
Kids are great observers. They are always comparing the evidence gathered from the world around them and seeing how it applies to them. My daughters asked me when they would get boobs long before they had a reasonable chance of acquiring any.
Once again, a calm and plain-spoken conversation (really a series of conversations) will happen far earlier than you expect it. It’s not unusual for a three- or four-year-old child to ask you about the difference between boys and girls, or children and older teens. Be prepared and treat it like the normal topic it is.
Handling Loud Questions About Strangers in Public
One of my parenting mantras (besides “Don’t bother me when I’m in the bathroom) is “You can always ask Mommy anything”. My only exception to this is any question that’s loud, in public, and about someone who can hear it.
If there’s a neighbor or relative you aren’t particularly fond of, prepare for your child to loudly ask if that’s the lady who smells like cabbage in front of the lady who smells like cabbage.
Remind your children that personal comments about other people can hurt feelings and are inappropriate, even if they are true.
If (when) this happens to you, don’t get mad. It is an innocent mistake all kids make, and an opportunity for you to teach him or her about being sensitive to the feelings of others.
Managing the Inevitable Questions About When You Started Drinking
There’s no right or wrong answer when asked about your personal experience with alcohol. If you did drink under-aged, it might be a cautionary tale, or they might think it is permission for them to drink. If you waited until you were 21, some kids might then be too ashamed to come to you if they make a bad decision.
You’ll do whatever’s right for your family. For me, what worked was talking about what I saw as a teen. The bad experiences of my peers make good enough cautionary tales.
This allowed me to continue to be a safe person for my kids to come to if they made mistakes, but also kept them from having any of my bad choices as an excuse for their bad choices.
Whatever you choose to do, talk early and often about why children should wait to consume alcohol. Have good information, like the rich catalog here on Ask Listen Learn. Start at the section for parents to get some good ideas. I know my best advice when you have older kids is to talk to them in the car. It’s always been our best place to have deep conversations.
Childhood is short. Enjoy the journey you have for such a brief time with your children. Expect those embarrassing question, but be prepared for those you will never see coming. Just know those embarrassing parenting moments happen to us all, and usually in public.