Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Answering 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!


  1. Julie Bentley

    A little while ago I was at the store with the little boy I babysit and we passed another child in a wheelchair and the child was a chemotherapy patient so they did not have any hair at that point. The little boy I was watching grabbed onto my hand and yelled "What is wrong with that boy, why is he in that big chair?"

    After doing this assignment and taking this class I now know that I should have asked the child what he thought was wrong with the boy and what he thought that type of chair would be useful for him for? After giving him an opportunity to answer and I had time to think of my response I would inform him about what the disease cancer is and let him know that it is not like the flu or a cold that he could not catch it. And I would allow him to ask questions that I would hopefully lead him to answering himself. I would inform him about what chemotherapy was and let him know that the little boy was doing it to help him get better so he can go back to living his life without the disease.

  2. Shannon Thelen

    A little while ago I was watching my cousins and took them to church with me. After greeting the people around us and shaking hands, my cousin looked up at me, and in a loud whisper, asked, "What is wrong with that man's hands?" as she pointed to the man in front of us. The man in front of us was much older and had arthritis so his hands were both formed different.

    At the time, my response was basically one of those give an apologetic smile and I told leaned over and told my cousin that it was time to be quiet and that it is not polite to point at people.
    Now that I reflect back on it, after church I should have said, "You want to know why that man's hands looked different." I then should have asked what she noticed about the man's hands to give me some time to think about the best way to answer her and to see what she already knew. I then should have explained to her about what arthritis is and how sometimes people, usually older adults get arthritis. I then should have told her how it can affect people not only visually, like the man's hands, but sometimes in ways that people can't see. I then should've asked her if she had any more questions about it.
    That would have been a better way to handle it.

  3. Brittany Hudson
    A few weeks ago my cousin Jon, who is seven years old, asked me why our grandma kept asking everyone the same questions over and over again. At the time I just smiled at him and said that sometimes grandma forgets things so she needs to be reminded of them.

    Now I wish I would have answered him a little bit differently. First, I wish I would have asked him why he thought grandma was forgetting things. After he gave his response I would have told him that grandma has an illness called Dementia. I then would have went on to tell him that this illness causes grandma to sometimes forget things, such as questions she has already asked, so she will ask them again. I would then ask him if he had any other questions about the illness and I would try to find some books to show him that would help him have a better un derstanding of grandma's illness.

  4. Ashley Rogers

    I was babysitting and we were at the pool, when the girl i was babysitting asked me why this boy was wearing a one piece bathing suit, and why you couldn't see his penis. It was a girl, with a really short haircut. I responded saying "Shhh, thats a girl."

    I wish I would have responded by asking why she thought that person was a boy. After her response I would say that sometimes girls get haircuts that are just as short as boys, but that doesn't mean that she is a boy, but rather that she just likes the haircut. I would have asked her if she had any more questions and try to help her as much as I can.

  5. Lindsey Mize

    I was babysitting my four year old cousin last winter at my house. It just snowed the night before, so there was a lot of snow on the driveway. My father was out snow blowing our driveway that morning. My cousin wanted to go outside and play in the snow, so we did. We went outside and my cousin saw my next door neighbor, which was a woman, snow blowing her driveway. My cousin looked at me and said, “She can’t do that she is not a boy”. At the time, I told my cousin that boys and girls can both snow blow the driveway, there is many jobs that both boys and girls can do.

    Now I wished I would have answered differently to my cousin in that situation. First, I would have asked my cousin the question, “Why can’t the woman snow blow her driveway”. Then I would explain to her that all individuals, female or male can do jobs around the house. I would discuss some examples with her like males can cook dinner or clean and females can work on the car or mow the grass. Next, I would discuss that professional careers can either be done by a male or female, it does not matter. Then we would discuss some examples, like a women doctor and a male nurse. Also, allow to her to think of some examples on her own. Finally, I would allow her to ask me any questions she has, and I would try to direct them so she can answer them herself.

  6. Tabitha Humble- Last year, I was babysitting a three year old and five year old. We were at the park sitting under the pavilion. A man who was clearly homeless, was digging through the garbage. They began asking, "What is he doing? Why is he digging through the trash? Did he lose something?" I didn't know what to say, so I explained, "He is digging through the trash for pop bottles and cans." They asked why and I ignored them. Then the man huddled up on a picnic table and went to sleep. They asked, "Why is he sleeping?" I ignored them and we left before they could ask anymore questions. I was embarrassed that I did not know how to answer their questions

    Now, I wish I would have answered their questions more appropriately. I would have said, "You are curious about this man." I would have asked, "Why do you think he is digging in the garbage?" Then I would have explained, "The man may be looking through the trash can for pop bottles and cans for money. He may not have money, a home, nor a bed to sleep in, like you and I. He may sleep anywhere he can find a warm and quiet place. He also may not eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, like you and I do everyday. He also may be digging through the garbage for food because he is hungry."

  7. Allison DeHaan
    One time while I was in the Child development lab at CMU, a maintenance worker was in the lunch room, hanging shelves on the walls. A boy came up to me and said, "That man only has one leg." At the time, I replied with, "What do you think happened to his other leg?" The boy responded with, "It was chopped off with a chain saw." And then the boy ran away and resumed his play.
    Looking back on the conversation, I wish that I could have expelled the myth that his leg was just chopped off. I wish I could have talked with the boy about the many different reasons why he might only have one leg. It would have been a great opportunity to allow the boy to ask the maintenance man about it too!

  8. Nicole Kennedy

    One time I was babysitting for three and a half year old little girl named Sarah. I have been watching Sarah since she was four months old and have a good relatiosnship with her and her family. One afternoon we were painting outside and she looked at me and said, "Where do babies come from?" I was very taken aback by this question and simply said, "From mommy's belly." She didn't say anything after this and neither did I.

    In hindsight, I wish I had reflected the question back on Sarah and said, "Where do you think babies come from?" This would have given me some time to think and also given Sarah an opportunity to think for herself. If Sarah had asked for more information, I may have suggested that we go to the library and look for a book (children's book obviously) to give us some more information. I also may have mentioned that we could talk with her Mom about it later when she got home. That way I wouldn't be stepping on Sarah's parent's toes by giving her too much information. It would also open doors for further conversation about this topic between Sarah and her parents.

  9. Jennie Semeyn-
    I was babysitting a 5 year old and we were playing at the park. While we were at the park a guy in a wheel chair went by. The child asked me "what is he sitting in why isn’t he walking?" I just kind of ignored the question and continued playing.

    After doing this assignment I learned that I should have asked her "why do you think he is sitting in that chair getting around?" After giving some time for the response I would have talked about the thing that the person is sitting in is called a wheel chair and a lot of different things could have happened making it so the man couldn’t walk. I would than take the child to the library to look up books about people with disabilities and in wheel chairs and talk about people who look different than us and who are in special things like wheel chairs. I would also ask the child "how do you think we should treat someone in a wheelchair?" and talk about how people in wheelchairs are people and shouldn’t be treated any differently. After reading the books I would answer any questions she had.

  10. Lindsay Anderson

    While I was babysitting an 11 year old boy, we went to pick his 9 year old brother from his classroom. As we were waiting for his class to be released there was another family waiting and her son was jumping up and down, clapping his hands, and yelling. My little boy asked, "What's wrong with that kid and why won't he stop?" I said, "He is a boy with special needs, it's not polite to stare at people."

    After doing this assignment I have learned there are plenty better ways to have answered his curiosity. I should have started by saying, "Why do you think he is jumping up and down and clapping?" By this I would have been able to see how much information he knows about children with special needs. I then should have explained what special needs are and the different types children or adults might have. (Down syndrome, ADHD, Autism) I then should have explained that this particular child had autism better explained what it means to have autism.
    After explaining this I should have asked if he had any more questions? If he did I would respond if I knew the answer or help him do more research about Autism.

  11. I come from a very small community with almost no racial diversity. I was babysitting my five year old cousin and we were at a park in a neighboring town. We were playing when an African American family came to the park. My cousin asked me "Why are they so dark?" At the time I simply responded, "Because they are different from us."

    I now realize that I could have answered this question much better. I should have started by asking my cousin what she meant by the family being dark. I assume she would have said their skin is dark. I should have then asked her why she thought their skin was darker. After she had given he explanation, I would elaborate or correct her ideas. I would have told her that we all have different skin colors but we are still alike in many ways. we both have eyes, ears, and a nose and we both like to play at the park. I could have taken her to the library and found a book about racial differences. I would want the book to focus on the ways we are all alike even though we have different skin colors.

  12. While I was babysitting I took the 2 kids to target, the youngest was 6 and we saw a little person. He was staring at the little person and I told him it was not polite to stare, the woman was with her daughter and when the little girl who was taller than her mother said “mommy look at this.” When the little boy I was watching asked me “why is that girl taller than her mom?” I told him not to worry about it.

    If I knew what I know today I would have handled the situation very differently. I would have first asked him why he thought that the woman was so much shorter and what could cause that? When he asked his second question about why the daughter was taller I would ask him what he thought and then talk to him about how some people don’t grow as tall as everyone else for various reasons. I would also see if there was a book that I could have read to him that would have explained it to him especially because he was at an age where he liked having people read books to him.

  13. Tiffany Mellado-

    My sister is 11 years old and when she was younger we were shopping at a grocery store. She saw a male that was in a wheelchair. She stared at him and I told her, in a firm voice to stop because it is impolite. She didn't stop immediately and afterwards she had some questions for me.

    She asked me why he was in the wheelchair?, why it had a motor on it?, why he couldn't walk?, and if he was the same as us?

    I was not sure how to answer some of these questions because from my point of view I could not tell what his case was and why he was in the position he was. I also should have responded more appropriately. She asked good questions and I should have taken the opportuinity to answer them in any way I could. I avoided a lot of her questions and kind of blew them off. I didn't think I was knowledgable enough to answer them and I didn't want to give her false informaton. I wish I would have suggested that we go online and look for answers as to what might be the cause of his disability, or to the library for some books.

  14. Courtney Hamilton

    I work at a daycare four days a week. One day, a child said said to me, "Why isn't bad Suroma here?" This child is the child who usually misbehaves. She takes toys from children, does not listen to teachers, and causes lots of problems in the classroom. I was caught off guard and ignored the comment.

    If I could answer the question again, I would say:
    "You are calling Suroma bad Suroma. Why are you calling her bad Suroma?"
    After the answer I would talk to the child about how her name is Suroma, not bad Suroma. I would lead it into a discussion of how we all make mistakes sometimes. This doesn't mean that we always are bad all of the time.

  15. Laura Florkey

    After a few weeks of babysitting, my brother who is special needs with a learning disability and has a speech impairment asked me if he could come with me to babysit. I said "sure" and so he went with me to babysit the 3 children. Teddy, at age 5 met my brother and started to play with him. After playing with my brother for about 5 minutes, he came and whispered in my ear "why does he talk so funny?" I responded that "he has a speech problem and some people are different." As soon as I said that he went back to playing with Jeff, my brother.

    After I read the chapter and worked on the assignment, I realized that I should have responded differently to Teddy. I should have said Teddy, Jeff is different from us and he does talk funny. Then I could have said, Teddy, "why do you think he talks funny?" I would wait for Teddy to respond and then I would say, "Jeff is different from us. He has a speech problem that makes him talk funny. He has a hard time saying some letters and words. But, he is just like us. He likes to play and have fun."

  16. Amber Mayville

    I have a cousin who lives in another state so our family rarely gets to see her. Last summer she came to visit with her 3 sons. One of her sons has speech apraxia and he has never talked. None of my family had met this little guy yet but was aware of his disorder. While we were at dinner one night, my other cousin who is nine asked me "why doesn't Remi ever talk." I told her that he just can't and then tried to avoid the conversation.

    After completing this assignment I know what I should have said. I should have said, "you want to know why Remi doesn't talk. Why do you think he doesn't talk?" I would have waited for my cousin to respond and then said, "Remi has a disorder that prevents him from talking called Speech Apraxia. I don't know alot about it but maybe we can look up more information about it together on the computer. This way we can both understand what it is."

  17. Jeanine Pica-
    I am going into special education, and am part of a group called Connections That Count. We take students with disabilities out into the community. One time I took **** to Pizza Hut along with another boy with a mild disability. His younger cousin had to come along and as we were sitting and eating, he asked, “Why can’t he talk like us?” He was referring to the other boy with a severe disability whom is non-verbal. Although I wish I knew what to say because it seems like an easy answer, I was startled. I immediately felt embarrassed and saddened for ****. I tried to explain that he does talk, but in just a different way and uses a device to talk to others. I then quickly changed the subject.
    If I could I would have responded differently. I would have first reflected his thoughts and then asked him, "why do you think he talks differently? and do you know anyone that talks the same as you or different?" I would then listen to his ideas and reflect on them. I would explain that he has a disability called autism, which leads to his non-verbal characteristics. I would show him his device and let him ask questions. I'd probably also have **** use his device to speak to him to show that he can talk, but just in a different way. I would also let him discuss this until he felt comfortable instead of shying away from it. I'd probably report back to the parent to let them know their child's new discovery and have the opportunity to investigate further.

  18. Ashley Atwood

    When working this summer my group of 8 year olds started talking about hobos. They started say things like, hobos smell, they're dumb, etc. As I overheard I said "okay guys we need to be nice to others, I need you to talk about nice things now". With this, one inquisitive little child asked "Why do they choose to live they that? It's not very smart." When he said this I repeated my first response and moved them onto our next activity.

    In retrospect I wish I had done several things differently. First off I wish I wouldn't have avoided the topic. I woudl start out by saying. You are all curious about hobos. I would have asked them why they thought hobos lived the way they did, and why they thought hobos stunk or were dumb(knowing my lovely kids they would have given some silly answers) but perhaps I would have gotten a nice one like, well maybe they are to poor to have a house. I then would explain that they may live a lot differently than us but perhaps they are not that much different. I would then ask the children to point out similarities between our group and a homeless person they have seen or heard about. It could have been an interesting conversation!

  19. Lauren Arickx
    I have worked at a child care center since my junior year of high school. It is at a fitness center, so children are only able to come for two hours a day, while their parent(s) remain in the building. There is a four year old boy who comes into the center on a regular basis. His left arm was amputated above his elbow shortly after he was born. Other children have asked me, other child center staff and him about what happened to his arm. The children often come up to me and say "what happened to his arm?" or "why does he only have one arm?" while pointing at him. I always say to the children that Nathan is a nice boy and was just born differently. Many times the kids are concerned that Nathan will hurt them. Other staff sometimes say things like God made him differently, but he is just like us. I know that statement is nice, but I usually try to avoid religious references, because you never know what someone's beliefs are. Some children are so afraid of Nathan, they will not come into the child center if they see that he is there. We have actually had parents complain to the building manager about why we allow him to come into the center, because he scares their children so much. Of course we do not honor the parents requests, and still allow Nathan to come and play in the child center.

    If I were to respond to the children's questions about Nathan today, I would use what I have learned in this class and reflect the questions back to them. I would stay, why do you think he only has one arm? Then I would base the rest of our discussion around their responses. I would be sure to include the fact that although he looks a little different, he is still the same as everyone else, and likes to play like all little boys do. I would tell the child/children that he isn't scary and that there is nothing to be afraid of.

  20. Brittany Larkin- When I was a senior in high school I was a cadet teacher in a first grade classroom. I would go everyday Monday-Friday for about 3 hours a day. One day, one of my students asked me what the spots on my face and arms were. I knew he meant my freckles and I was immediately embarrassed because I don't like them so I knew this would be a short conversation. I replied with a short "I was born with them." Which honestly I wasn't. I didn't get them until about 1st or second grade but I didn't really know what to say plus like I said, I was embarrassed.

    I now look back on that and know what I should have said. I should have said, "You are curious about the spots on my face and arms. What do you think they are? These spots are actually called freckles. Freckles are little spots of melanin in your skin, which become darker than the skin around them." If the child was still curious I would suggest that we can research some more information on the computer.

  21. Megan Nix

    Last year at my in-laws Thanksgiving my husband and I had taken my 8 year old niece with us. My husband's grandmother has Dementia so she often asks the same questions repeatedly and forgets people whom she had just recently spoken to. As my niece was a new face for her she kept asking her who she was and repeating the same conversation with her. After a few times my niece pulled me aside and said "Why does Uncle Jake's grandma keep bugging me?" At the time I told her that she is very forgetful but very nice and that my niece should just smile and be polite.

    Looking back on that situation I realize I should have answered differently. I should have told my niece that his grandma has Dementia and aksed her if she new what that meant. Then after listening to her explanation and questions I shold have explained the disease to her and helped her come up with some solutions to dealing with the repeated questioning.

  22. My cousin was staring and pointing at a boy that was missing an ear. I told him that we were leaving and took him home.. Telling him that it was mean.

    I should have said that sometimes people have accidents, get sick, or are born without certain parts. I would then ask my cousin if he did not have something, like a hand, if that would change who is was? I would also explain that just because someone looks different from us doesn't mean that they could not be our friend!

  23. Nicole Gomez- I was walking in the hallway with my midtier class last semster and we passed a child in a wheelchair. One of my students blurted out loud "Why is that kid in a chair?". I repsonded by saying we can not talk in the hallway and left it at that. I should have addressed it later. I would have asked them why they thought the child was in a wheelchair and said that some people have a disability that do not allow them to walk or they have very limited mobility and the wheelchair helps them move around. As a resource I would have made a connection with my sister. She has cerbal paulsey and and to wear braces on her legs when she was younger. I would have used her as an example of a disabiliy and the braces as another method of assistance for walking.

  24. Katey Brennan-
    I used to babysit a little girl who at the time was about 3 years old. I am from a town with not a whole lot of diversity, and we were walking down the street and she is running ahead of me, and she see's a family who is Afican American, and stops dead in her tracks and says "Katey, gorillas!" and is pointing at them. At the time I was so embarrassed that I had no idea how to react.

    After reading the chapter I know realize that I would have stopped and talk to her and pointed out that they are not gorillas but they are humans just like you and me, and that they just have darker skin than we do.

  25. Amanda Caulkett-
    One experience that I wish I could redo is when I was asked by a child why his friend did not have a dad. At the time I just told him because he has two moms instead.

    Now I wish I could have reflected on what he said by saying "You noticed Julian has two moms." Then I might have asked him a question such as why he thought that was. This would have given me time to explain to him that there are many different types of families. Also, I would explain that just because Julian does not have a dad, that does not mean he is not loved just as much and that he is still taken care of.

  26. Jenna Hesselink-
    I was babysitting a couple of little girls ages two and four. I took them to the store to help pick out a present for their mothers birthday later that week when we saw a family with a crippled girl. This girl had braces on her legs and could only walk with these sticks that attached to her wrists. We had to pass this family in order to get to where we were going and as soon as the girls saw her they instantly pointed and asked what was wrong with this girl. Unfortunately, this girls family had heard the remarks made and I felt so bad. I quickly apologized to the girl and her family and asked if they didn’t mind explaining their daughters situation so that my girls could better understand. My hope was that they would leave that situation a little more understanding and accepting. The family was more then happy to help. They explained that their daughter had cerebral palsy and these braces helped her walk better. After that situation we left and I didn’t really think any thing of it. After this assignment and being in this class I realized that I did help the girls but I could have asked them what they thought was wrong, explain that it wasn’t the child’s fault and that nothing was really wrong with her. I would have told the girls that this was a genetic disease that effected the way the girl walked and so she needed help to get around. The children didn’t seem to mind so much after they received an explanation, I just wish I could have gotten them to think about the situation more themselves and see what they cam up with by themselves.

  27. Danielle Packard

    Thinking about a situation where I have been asked a difficult question was hard. I come from a very diverse family so many of the children I work with are exposed to many cultures, colors, and backgrounds. For me this situation was a little more personal. A few months ago I was playing catch with my 3 year old cousin. As he went to toss the ball to me he noticed my hands are a little different (all of my fingers are bent so it looks like I have claws, they are strange to look at). He looked at me and said why do your hands look so funny? I responded I was just born like that.

    Sometimes I get embarrassed about the way my hands look. Looking back on the situation I understand that he was just curious and was not trying to make me feel uncomfortable. I wish I would have reflected upon what he said to me. "You want to know why my fingers are crooked. Why do you think they are like that?" I would like to see what he comes up with and it will also get his prior knowledge activated. My response could have been better too. I wish I would have said that sometimes people are born different. "I was born with my fingers bent like this. They still work just like your fingers, but they look a little different."

  28. Erica Pionk

    I was at a church with my friend Ann. Ann has an emotional impairment called manic depression. She has outbursts or yelling, crying, and laughing and cannot control them. During prayer, Ann screamed out a swear word. A child sitting close by turned to me and asked "Why is she yelling?" "Can't you tell her to stop?" At the time, I was caught off guard and was not sure what to say. I responded by saying, "She didn't mean to yell." "It's ok."

    I wish I would have responded like this-
    "I understand that you don't know why Ann is yelling." "She has a disorder and sometimes she yells and can't help it. "When you are feeling sad or mad you can control your feelings, but Ann has a hard time controlling hers and she has different feelings all the time." "Even though she yells sometimes, she is happy sometimes and even makes me laugh sometimes." "She is a very good friend just like I'm sure you are."

    I would provide more information about Ann's disorder; manic depression. I would also provide similarities between Ann and I or Ann and the child so she could understand that even though Ann has a disability, she still is a lot like everyone else.

  29. I was sitting with my boyfriend’s four-year old daughter one morning eating breakfast when she asked me, “Why does my mommy look fat when she is not having a baby?” All I said to her what that I didn’t think mommy was fat and I moved on from the situation. I realized that answering her question with that short, non-responsive question left her wondering and confused about the situation still. If I could answer her question again, I would explain to her what happens when you get pregnant and that your body takes a while to lose all of the fat that the body contained when she had a baby in her womb. Because she is a younger child, I should have taken her to the computer and show her how the baby grows inside her mom and talk to her about how her mommy was eating for two people. I would then explain that exercise and eating right after having a baby is also very important. I would try and use the correct medical terms and body parts when explaining it to her so that she knows exactly what I am talking about and how the process works. The details she might want or ask for would be how her mommy loses the weight and maybe even move on to asking how a baby is born or comes out. I would answer the questions using as many of the correct terms as I could as well as showing her pictures of pregnant mothers as well as exercising that is good for them. I would hope that this would give her the correct answers she is looking for as well as feeling comfortable with the reasoning behind my answers.

  30. Kelly Bosma-
    I cannot think of a time when I was asked a difficult question like the ones in the assignment, but I can think of this one. This is not very extreme case/question like the ones in the assignment but I have four cousins that are within a year and a half of each other and out of the four kids there are twins. Out of the four kids, one of the twins has to wear glasses since she was born with terrible vision. One of the kids asked me “Why does she have to wear glasses and her sister doesn’t? I would have reflected the question back by saying “You want to know why she has to wear glasses all the time and her sister doesn’t.” Then I would ask “Why do you think she has to wear glasses all the time?” (Wait for response) Then I would tell them that sometimes some people don’t have very good eye sight like your sister, and sometimes some people can see well enough were they don’t have to use glasses to see. The people that can’t see very well have to wear glasses so they can see. The glasses act like your real eyes because your real eyes can’t see all the way the right way, so the glasses replace your real eyes. She is the only one that has to wear glasses and not her sister because her eyes aren’t bad like her sisters. Just because they are twins, doesn’t mean that they have all the same things, like eye and hair color.

  31. Lisa Feight

    I am a dance teacher at a dance studio and teach a variety of young aged children. One of my dance classes is a group of children ranging from 3-5 years old. In this class I have a girl by the name of Ellie who has down syndrome. One day a girl in the class asked, "Why can't Ellie do the things that I can do and why does she act different?"

    By having this class and doing this assignment I now know the appropriate response to this question. First, I would use reflection by re- wording her question. Second, I would ask her, "Why do you think Ellie is different than you?" By asking her a question it would give me time to think of an appropriate answer for her question. It would also give me insight into what she already knows. Third, I would inform her about why Ellie is different than her. I would tell her that all people have different abilties. Ellie is different than you and me because she was born with down syndrome. People who have down syndrome don't have the same abilities as you and I.

  32. Lisa Scheerhorn-

    I was at the park with my boyfriend, best friend, and her son Karson who is three years old. It was the first time that Karson had met my boyfriend and right away he asked why he was a black color. My friend and I were embarrassed so I quickly said that everybody looks different on the oustide. Now, I realize that my answer was too vague.

    Even though Karson is only three, he would be able to understand more. I could have challenged him by asking him the open ended question of why he thinks his skin is a different color. This could have also helped clear up any misconceptions that he may have. I could have also explained to him that people look different because their families come from all over the world. He might not have understood right away, but we could have went to the library to get the book "Children Just Like Me." This is a great book because it has pictures and stories from children all over the world. Karson could have looked at all of the pictures and noticed that everybody looks different, but we are all people.

  33. Melissa Stroven- I was babysiting a boy and we were at Burger King and there was a older gentleman in a wheelchair and was hooked up to oxygen. The boy pointed at him and said "what is wrong with him?" I told him that it was not nice to point and then I changed the subject. Now I know that I should have stated a reflection by asking him what he thought was wrong with him. Then I would tell him about how our bodies change as we get older and how sometimes we need oxygen to help us breathe when our bodies cannot do it themselves. I learned that I did not explain to the boy what was going on with the older gentleman. The boy simply asked a question because he did not know and he was relying on me to teach him and I missed an opportunity to teach in the moment.

  34. Ashley Ruby

    Over the summer, my four year old cousin and I were at a water park and an Asian woman walked by us. My little cousin tugged on my hand and asked, “Why are her eyes different.” I bent down beside her and said, “Her eyes are different because she is from a different part of the word than us.”

    Looking back on this incident, I wish I would have first reflected on the question that my cousin asked and then gained her prior knowledge about the situation. After my cousin asked the question I wish I would have said, “You want to know why her eyes look different than ours.” I then would have asked, “Why do you think her eyes look different?” After receiving my cousin’s knowledge about the topic, I would have explained to her that the woman is from a different part of the world than us, called Asia. I then would have explained that some people look different because they are from different areas. I would have then asked if she had any more questions about the topic. If she did, I would have answered them to the best of my ability. Lastly, to make sure my cousin understood what I explained, I would have asked her to explain, in her own words, why that woman’s eyes looked different. I would have then clarified any misconceptions that she may have had.

  35. Katie Johnson

    A question was posed to me by my 4 year old cousin when we were at the park. He pointed to another young boy who was playing on the playground and said, "Why is he black?" At the time I simply said something along the lines of, "Well everyone's skin is a different color, it makes everyone unique." Kind of a copout answer...

    Now after taking this class and thinking about responding appropriately and effectively to children's questions, I would have responded in a much different manner. I could have asked him what he had noticed about the boy that made him say that. I would have then reflected on his question by saying, "You noticed that is skin is a different color than yours." We could then lead into a conversation about how everyone's skin is a different color. We are not just white and black. I could have held up something that was white to his skin and asked him if that was his skin color. We could have then went into a discussion of a color that would match his skin, perhaps using a children's book or doing that skin paint color experiment. I would then allow him to ask any more questions he may still have.

  36. Amy Buzard

    I was in a store with my 4 year old cousin. We were in an aisle with a couple who were speaking in Chinese. My cousin looks at me and asks, "Why are they talking funny?" I responded by telling him that they are speaking in a different language and moving us to another aisle.

    After doing this assignment, I would have responded in such a better way. I would have started out by saying, "You are wondering why they were speaking differently than we do. Why do you think they were speaking differently?"

    Then, I would explain that all over the world there are different cultures that include people talking in a different language other than English. I would show him books on different cultures, including the Chinese culture. I would rent videos, CD's, and/or go online to have him listen to the different languages. I would try to find resources that would allow my cousin to hear words in a different language and then have it translated to English (and vice versa). I would also try to answer any other questions he could have had.

    This opened a door for me to teach him and to have him learn something that is very important. Next time, I will have a better idea how to respond to a situation like this.

  37. Kelly Dalia-Just this past summer my boyfriend's grandfather died after losing his long battle with cancer. I have been dating my boyfriend for almost five years and his family and I are very close. When his 4 year old nephew arrived at the funeral home, he immediately ran to me because he knew I would play with him. It wasn't until the second day of the view that he finally asked, "Why is Great b-pa dead?" I told him that he had been sick for a very long time and reminded him of the coughing spells that his great-grandfather used to have. Jackson, after thoughtfully listening to my in depth explanation said, "because was too old, that is why he is dead." I simply nodded my head and went back to the puzzle we were working on.

    After reading this chapter, I now realize that there were probably 50 other ways that I could have better answered his question. I could have responded by asking him, "Why do you think he died?" Which he probably would have responded because he was old. Jackson is very intelligent for his age and remembered the coughing spells his great grandfather used to have while we were at family meals and such, so I could have asked him a little more about those. By asking him the question, it would have bought be a little more time to think of a shorter more direct response, rather than the lengthy one I had given him that he didn't understand.

  38. While visiting my grandpa in the hospital, my cousin asked why grandpa was hooked up to those machines. I simply said, because the doctors have to keep track of him. I should have refleced on what she was asking. You want to know why grandpa is hooked up to those machines? why do you think he his? after giving her some time to answer, i could have responded with, so the doctors can look at what is happening with his heart and see how he is breathing. i missed the opportunity to discuss what was actually happening with grandpa and how his heart wasn't working 100%. it could have been a perfect chance to talk with her and discuss what may happen when we get older and that at one time or another we will be in the hospital and will be hooked up to machines.

  39. Ashley DeMars-
    I used to work at a summer camp for students with special needs. One of the boys that attended the camp was moderate-severely cognitively impaired. He was non-verbal and had autism. Every week we would take field trips out in the community. One day we were at the park and this boy went up to a young girl and grabbed her hair and started playing with it. The young girl freaked out and got scared. I was immediately embarrassed because I did not catch him before he could get to her. She nervously asked me, “Why did he grab my hair like that?” I quickly tried to explain to her that he just liked the way it felt in his hands and that he did not understand why he couldn’t touch it whenever he wanted.

    In retrospect, I wish I would have responded differently. I would have instead reflected on the question by asking her why she thinks he grabbed her like that. I would then listen to her ideas and reflect on them. I would explain to her his disability. I would tell her that feeling hair is a positive sensory experience for him and that he enjoys the way it feels in his hands. I would also tell her that his disability leaves him lacking proper social cues and that he just does not understand why it is wrong to go up to people and touch their hair without any permission. After explaining all of this, I would ask her if she better understands why he did what he did. If she says yes, I would have asked her to paraphrase some of those reasons. Finally, I would address any final questions or concerns about him or his disability.

  40. Katrina MacDonald

    I babysat for a little girl named kayla for 4 years. When she was 5 I took her with me to the mall. When we were there there was a woman in a wheel chair. Kayla asked me why she was got to ride in a chair and not walk like everyone else. I told her I didnt know and that was the end of the conversation.

    Now after doing this I know that I should have kept the conversation going. I should have given her the oppertunity to ask me more questions about why people have to be in wheelchair sometimes. I should have also asked her what she thinks could make people be put in wheelchairs. I also should have talked to her about even though some people are in wheel chairs doesnt mean they still cant do things that other people do.

  41. Tamara Zakarian
    I was working in the Maple room at the pretend center with Gerald and Riley. Gerald and I were sitting at the table and Riley was serving us food. As Riley was pretending to cook Gerald said "Why are you cooking? Make the woman do that!" I simply said Gerald, Riley can cook if he wants to. I wish I would have answered this question differently.

    If this were to happen again I would have said "Gerald, why don't you think boys can cook?" Then I would say "Some men really enjoy cooking." I would talk about some other household chores that men do and ask him to give me some examples. I would ask him if he had any other questions about what jobs men and women do. Then I would ask him to explain in his own words what household chores men might like to do.

  42. One time while I was babysitting our neighbor boy who was five, he asked me about our neighbor Joe who has just passed away. He asked me why Joe was gone and where he went. I went on to explain to him that Joe was very sick with something called Leukemia and that we wouldn't be able to see him anymore. I told him that he was in a better place and that Joe could still see us even though we could not see him and that we could even still talk to him if we wanted but that we wouldn't be able to hear him talk back. He asked me why everyone was so sad and I told him that it's because we were all going to miss him but that the sadness would go away after a while. I told him its ok to feel sad and that its ok to miss him.

    If I were in this situation after doing this assignment I would first ask him where he thought Joe went and what he thought of the whole situation and how it made him feel instead of just going straight in to telling him what I thought.

  43. Jennie Chancey:
    While I was in high school I babysat quite a bit for my neighbors who had twin boys who were three years old. We were getting ready for bed and had just finished brushing teeth and picking out stories to read before bed. While getting ready to read the story the boys wanted me to sit in between them, so I did just that. As I was reading the story one of the boys started poking at my breasts and then proceeded to ask "What are those and why are they bigger than my Mom's?" the response that I gave him was a blank stare (in fear of what to say) along with "umm, my chest."
    Having now taken this class, I now would respond differently to the question I was presented with. I would have been honest and used the correct terminology when answering the question with the child. I would have used a response such as "You're curious about what this body part is. That is my breast. Everyone has bodies that are different than one another, so not everyone will be the same." This response reflects the child's question as well as answering the question he had using the proper terminology.

  44. I work in a preschool for 2.5 to 5 year olds during the summer in my hometown. During one of the summers, one of the staff members father's had died. One of the children had found out about this unfortunate event and had asked me where her dad went when he died. I then asked him where he thought her dad went. He replied with heaven. I then agreed and said I think he went to heaven too.

    After looking back at this event, I would have discussed his answer more with him and not just agreeing with what he had said.

  45. Alesha Blakely

    My aunt and her 5 year old son, Gavin, came down to CMU for a visit. My aunt wanted to go to the bookstore, while there a black person walked by. Gavin, who has never been around people with different ethnicities immediately looked up and asked, "Why is that person black?" Hoping that the person didn't hear what was just said I bent down and simply said, "Some people have different colored skin." We then went on as if nothing had happened.

    After taking this class and thinking about how to respond effectively and appropriately to children's questions, I would have had a completely different answer. I would have started by saying, "You noticed that person has different colored skin that you." I would then talk about how people from different parts of the world look different then what we are used to seeing, including their skin color. Being that we were in the bookstore, I could have grabbed a book that dealt with different cultures and used that as a reference.

  46. Catey Knowlton

    I was in a Kindergarten classroom every afternoon my senior year of high school. One day one of my kids asked me "where do babies come from?" At the time, I wasn't sure how we were supposed to answer these questions and what I was allowed to say so I told him to ask his parents.

    Now I realize I should have said "you are curious about where babies come from" and asked him "where do you think babies come from?" Allow him to think about it and give me an idea of what he already knew. Based on his answer, we could discuss where babies come from farther and he could ask more questions. We could look for an appropriate book in the classroom or library.

  47. Judy Whaley
    Several years ago I held VBS at my home. I had 13 neighborhood children at my house for two hours every day for a week. There was a group of children that always stayed later to play (all from the same family—step siblings and half siblings). One day one of the boys asked my daughter (5 yrs old) if my son (2yrs old) was her real brother. Now on this particular day he was displaying ALL of those classic terrible twos behaviors. She responded with the most disgusted look on her face and with a bob and weave of her head, “No! He’s my pretend brother!” I am sure that at that moment she really did wish we was just a figment of someone’s imagination, but the other children just looked at her like she was nuts. Then the little boy looked at me and asked what she was talking about. I just said that she didn’t understand what he meant when he said “real brother” because she doesn’t know what it means to have step brothers or half brothers.
    I should have restated the question like this; “Do you mean, is he her half brother or her step brother?” And I should have answered, “No he is not her step brother or her half brother because they both have the same mom and dad. Every family looks a little different and it doesn’t matter if you live with one parent or the other or if you have step or half brothers and sisters. A family is people that love and care about each other and it doesn’t matter if you are born into that family, married into that family or adopted into that family. Family is Family.

  48. Nichole Crosson

    When I was in high school, I was visiting a family who I was close with. I often babysat the children, so we were comfortable with each other - almost like siblings. The youngest girl, Jenna, was close to my face, examining my make-up and touching my hoop earrings. She said, "How come you're wearing that black stuff on your eyes? And those things in your ears? Daddy says people who look like that are bad."

    I was nervous to respond because her dad was just in the next room, and I didn't want to step on his toes by contradicting him, but I also felt a moral obligation to make sure Jenna knew how misleading it can be to judge people's character based on their earrings or make-up. I asked her what she meant, and I figured out that basically her dad was talking about people who dress either gothic (the make-up) or promiscuously (the earrings). I said, "I'm not bad, am I? I'm your friend, silly Jenna! Just because I wear eye-liner and these earrings doesn't mean I'm bad, and that doesn't mean anyone else is bad! Sometimes people can be really nice even if they look different from you."

    I missed something really important right off the bat - the reflection, which is obvious to me after 10 weeks in HDF 402! I should have started with, "You're curious about my make-up and earrings." It was good that I asked questions to find out what she meant, but I should have asked more challenging questions, like, “Why do you think someone who looked like that would be bad?” Next, I should have given a simple, matter-of-fact response to counter her remark, like, “Sometimes people can be mean, and sometimes people can be nice, but it doesn't matter how they look.” Next, I should have used examples that she could better relate to in order to counter her idea. I think it was good that I used myself as an example to show Jenna that the way I was dressed didn't make me "bad," but I also could have used another example, like this with Halloween: "On Halloween, you dressed up like a kitty cat! That was just a costume, right? You were silly-jenna-benna when you wore the costume, and silly-jenna-benna when you put on your pajamas! Make-up and jewelry are just like costumes – you can't tell just by looking at someone's costume if they're mean or nice... you have to talk to them and ask them questions and play with them if you want to know for sure! I could go in the bathroom and put black make-up all the way around my eyes, but I would still be the same person - your nice friend Nichole!” I was thinking I could have even taken her over to the computer as a follow-up, and showed her pictures online of my best friend Jon. He had spikey blue hair and sometimes wore dark make-up. I could have told her about Jon – how he's just like me: likes to go sledding in the winter, watches TV with me after school and likes to eat Cheez-its, helps me with my homework, he is really funny.... and put more of an emphasis on the fact that even though people look different than you, they can be a lot like you and be your really good friend.

  49. Daisy Badge
    When I worked at an after school program one student had parents of different ethnicities. Her mom was African American and her dad was Latino. One day when her dad came to pick her up another child told me, "That can't be Malia's dad because he isn't black like her." At the time I told the child that indeed it was her dad and pretty much left it at that because I was busy signing out other kids.
    Looking back, I would have responded by saying, "You noticed Malia and her dad don't have the same skin color. People can have parents who have different skin colors. Sometimes they look more like their mom and sometimes they look more like their dad or they can look a little like both. In this case, Malia's skin color looks more like her mom than her dad's but he is still her dad."

  50. Allison Diaz

    When in the children's lab here at CMU, a girl told me that her mom was dead. She didn't say much about how she died or how it made her feel, but she asked me if she would go to Heaven like her mom did. I wasn't really sure how to answer this question because I didn't have a strong background as to what she understood. I told her that anyone could go to Heaven and that she could too. After that, she said that she could see her mom in Heaven when she goes there.

    Looking back, I would have asked her more in-depth questions about her understanding of Heaven. I would ask her what she knows about Heaven and how people get there. I would ask her if she thought she would/could go to Heaven and why. I would tell her that I think she would go to Heaven because she is a very nice little girl and she cares about everyone. I would also tell her that everyone has the potential to go to Heaven. No matter how much she knows about Heaven, I think she just wanted to know that she would be able to be with her mom again someday.

  51. Aesha Rashid

    I was sitting at group in the Maple room and one of the boys is lying down looking at me thoughtfully. He then asks, "Why is your skin black?" Well, there wasn't much time to get into the details of why he was asking or what he really wanted to know (probably why I didn't look like him , blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin).

    My response hurried, whispered, and went something like this: Well, my skin really isn't black. My skin is brown. See? (I held out my hand here.) This is black. (Here I pointed to my shoes and then held my hand next to it.) See? they're not the same. This is black, I'm brown. (At this point, one of the other boys sitting next to me piped up and said that he was brown, too. I agreed and then pointed to his hand and at his shoe and did the same thing. Then I directed everyone to listen to the story being read.)

    I feel like I handled his question pretty well. I wish that I had found out what he really wanted to know, though. Now that I've read this chapter I have a feeling he was asking for a different explanation.

  52. One day at the lab there was a man with one leg hanging up shelves while we were in the multipurpose room. Luke was putting his dishes away when he walked up the man that was there. Luke asked the man "What happened to your other leg?" The man answered Luke that his leg had cancer so they had to take it off. Luke didn't say anything. I then told Luke that the leg was sick so he would be healthier if the doctors took it off.

    I feel like I could have handled the situation better by following up with Luke about the situation. After it happened I could have talked with Luke about the situation more and found out if he had any questions.