Simple answers to complicated questions: why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people? The truth is, like most other difficult questions, there’s really no clear answer. But when Baby asks you this question in some form or another, it is good for parents to give their child a valid response. You don’t have to have it all figured out to answer Baby‘s question. While he is this young, Baby just needs a basic, straightforward response.

So, why do bad things happen to good people? Here’s how to answer that question in a way that your toddler will understand.

The simple answer

Say to Baby, “Good and bad things happen to everyone. Can you think of some good and bad things that have happened to you? It was good to get your new toy, but it was bad when it got lost. We stay healthy and safe by wearing seatbelts, going to the doctor’s office, and listening to [mommy or daddy]. I love you so much, and I will protect you and make sure you are safe.”

Tips to keep in mind

Whether you use the response above or make up your own, try to remember these pointers when you talk to Baby about why things happen that don’t make sense.

  • Use appropriate language: Of course you don’t want to get overly graphic and scare Baby, but try to use straightforward language instead of words that are synonymous with other things, like ‘sleep’ instead of death. It’s totally well-intentioned, but can be confusing for children.
  • Accept the discomfort: Baby has every right to be curious about these kinds of things. Try to be sensitive if he asks more questions, and expect a little bit of sadness from Baby as he starts to grapple with these big concepts.
  • End with love and reassurance: Instead of trailing off at the end of your answer or immediately changing the subject, take the opportunity to remind Baby how much you love him. Reassure him that you will protect him, and keep him safe from harm. 

A final note

Whether it’s today, tomorrow, next month, or next year, your toddler will inevitably ask a question that forces you to poke around in the darker corners of the universe. And when he does, it might be hard to deal. But know that it’s better to start having these conversations sooner than later. Plus, it’s always good parenting practice to encourage Baby to come to you with his questions.


Sources
  • “Tragic events.” FredRogers. The Fred Rogers Company, 2017. Available at http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php.
  • “Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope.” AAP. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017. Available at https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Children-and-Disasters/Pages/Promoting-Adjustment-and-Helping-Children-Cope.aspx.
  • Mary Tamer. “When Bad Things Happen.” Harvard. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Apr 2015. Available at https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/15/04/when-bad-things-happen.
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