Encouraging the Tricky Questions

Just about every parent has encountered it: the show-stopping question. Conventional wisdom suggests that parent know more than their kids and part of our job is to impart wisdom to our offspring. But after you’ve parented for a while, chances are you’ve encounter those moments when you realize your kids think deeply, have complex ways of seeing the world, and can sometimes ask a doozy of a question. 


“Why is that lady so big?”


“What happens after we die?”


“Where do babies come from?”


“Why is that person sleeping on the sidewalk?”


Our kids questions can make us uncomfortable, cause us to question our own beliefs, evaluate our feelings, or wrestle with what to share now and what to keep for later. Getting caught off guard can make us feel cornered and unprepared, and we can be tempted to change the subject quickly in order to alleviate our own uncertainty.


But in spite of the challenge these feelings present, I have come to appreciate when my kids ask probing questions. Because as much as it may stretch me to address complex or nuanced issues, it’s really an opportunity for me to share my values and thought processes with my kids and encourage them to grapple with complex issues with maturity and wisdom.


Recently I was reading some scripture with my kids and one of their friends. We were talking about God’s intention that we might become more like Jesus and the friend piped up and asked “You hear all the time that you’re supposed to ‘be yourself’ and not try to be someone you’re not, but how can you be yourself if you’re supposed to become just like Jesus?” 


What a fantastic question! With that one question this young girl gave me insight into her perspective, shared her confusion, and invited me to help her think things through. It was a lovely opportunity for clarity and exploration of a legitimately tricky question—how can we all endeavor to become more like Jesus even as we appreciate the very unique ways God made each of us? Her question led to some great conversation about how to use our individual gifts, talents, and interests to pursue a life of love and self-sacrifice like Jesus did. 


I encourage you to embrace your children’s questions—even the ones that make you internally squirm. Search for ways to engage their minds and curiosity. Every question is an invitation—your kids are asking you to help them make sense of a complex world. What a privilege to be a parent on the front lines! Better that they ask you than seek their input from friends, the media, or other sources. Seek to be the primary answerer of questions in your child’s life—it may put you on the spot sometimes, but it also puts you in prime position to speak powerfully into your children’s lives.