Monday, April 6, 2009

Responding to the Hard Questions

Have you ever experienced an awkward moment when a child asks you one of those difficult questions that you aren't prepared to answer? As a constructivist by philosophy, my gut reaction is to respond with a matching question such as "what do you think?" or at least with a reflection acknowledging that I have heard the child's interest in the topic. While at a very basic level, this response buys me time to think about what might be appropriate information for a child of any given particular age, the child's response also gives me a clue into what kind of knowledge they are really seeking so that I can begin to help them search for the answers that are most meaningful to them. Here are some examples of such situations...

A six year old girl asks you, "How do babies get out of their mother's stomach?"

You are on a field trip to the grocery store. Three year old Peter spots an older man with an amputated leg. He says loudly and excitedly, "Hey, what happened to his other leg?" (This situation is something that my father-in-law experiences on a regular basis, so I know what kind of response he would appreciate as the "older man")

Gail, who is 11, tells you about her grandmother, who has cancer. "Can you catch that from someone?" she asks quietly.

Three year old Kern asks, "Are black people black all over? Are they black inside too?"

For those who are just entering professions as early childhood educators and caregivers, we might hope that these kinds of questions will never be asked, but it won't be long before the blinders fall off!

Please use the "comments" section to share a time when a child asked YOU a difficult question that you were not prepared for. Now that you've had time to think about the question and possible responses, how do you wish you had responded? Share your thoughts!