Answering your toddler’s uncomfortable questions

The world can be a confusing place for your toddler, who is beginning to become more and more aware of her environment. This heightened awareness, along with a vocabulary boom, can lead to frequent (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions. Curious toddlers at this age may be limited to more basic, two-word questions, but they’re also just getting started. As your toddler learns more about both communication and the world, there’s a good chance she will start to get more and more vocal about how she expresses her curiosity.

Learning how to field awkward questions now will be good practice for when she grows, as her ability to stop you in your tracks with unexpected inquiries will only expand from here. For now, here are some tips for dealing with those tricky questions from your tot.

  • Keep it age appropriate: A common question that makes parents squirm is, you guessed it, that one about body parts. As Baby begins to explore and identify her own body parts, she will eventually figure out that not all people look the same – especially if she has a sibling of another sex. Generally, replying with a simple answer that’s both scientific and brief makes for a starting point, and leaves the door open for more involved discussions when she is a little older, while still satisfying her curiosity.
  • Be sensitive to others: There will be questions Baby asks in public that make you want to disappear, but it’s important to respond, even if you are embarrassed. Suppose she asks you about the color of another person’s skin, or a physical impairment. Remember, adults understand that children are curious people, and aren’t trying to be rude, and generally won’t be upset with a toddler for noticing a difference. The key is to be tactful in your response by answering your toddler’s question while being respectful to the person she is asking about. An answer like, “Because everyone is different, just in the way your eyes are blue, and mine are brown,” can go a long way by acknowledging the question, while noting that differences are normal.
  • Redirect when needed: Some toddlers who notice that asking questions gets a certain response from you may keep asking as a way of seeking attention, or even just because they are bored. If they’ve asked a tough question you feel you’ve answered adequately, it is your right to move on from the subject, but moving on in a way that doesn’t feel dismissive to Baby shows that you respect her curiosity. Telling her, “I think we have covered that, and you seemed to understand, so why don’t we go to the kitchen and get a snack now?” lets her know that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, while at the same time getting the two of you past the moment. Another way to move the conversation forward is to let her know that if she thinks of more questions about a certain subject, she can ask more at bedtime. Odds are, the interest will dissipate as time passes.

It’s normal to feel stumped when Baby hits with a tricky question, especially as her vocabulary begins to take off, and you’re surprised she has even taken notice of what she is asking about. At this age, children are tuned into your responses, and the reactions and information they absorb from adults help to shape how they think about the world. As your child gets older, your answers will need to become more in-depth, so enjoy this phase when simple answers will do the trick!

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