Subha Manoj

While I Was Away

Subha Manoj

I have questions for you, Mom!

My 9 year old is growing… pretty fast. The recent questions from him were:
“Why is the middle finger bad?”
“Sex is either male or female, then why did the person in the movie PK said it is something we do?”
“What is that and why do you use it?” (referring to sanitary pads)
The list is endless.

If you have faced these questions or the like from your child, read on.

My husband has found a very apt solution to handle these questions. Walk away as if the question has disappeared into thin air or he very smartly finds something urgent to do. Good job! Well, his excuse is that since I handle kids of this age all the time in school, I am more adept at handling these situations better than him. Sometimes being not so good at something is also a life saver.

So that leaves me to handle these I-could-do-away-with-these kind of questions.

I had undergone a training programme on Child Sexual Abuse by Enfold and as a part of the curriculum, there was a very interesting discussion on handling such questions from growing kids. I will share here a few very handy pointers told by the trainer, which has helped me immensely.

1. Mostly children ask such questions not for knowledge but to check our comfort in answering the questions. 
Simply put, they just want to test our reactions. Infact, most of the kids will not even wait for the entire explanation. They will soon get bored when they see that we are ready to explain without any discomfort or shyness. So the important thing is controlling your reactions.
When your child asks you an uncomfortable question, the first thing for you to do is NOT SHUN or AVOID them. Never say, “What are you asking me? Leave me alone. Don’t say such dirty things”…. and so on. What I do is just keep a straight face, keep an eye contact, just nod and listen. This applies to ‘all’ the questions my child asks.This very reaction tells them we are prepared to answer their questions and they have not surprised us. This puts them under ease. Remember that the child is also going through a gamut of emotions when they ask us something of this genre. They are confused, anxious, little embarrassed.

Remember, mostly children stop asking such things to their parents once they enter teens.

2. Never answer these questions immediately.
This does not mean that you answer the next day. It simply means that you buy a few moments before answering. A simple few things I do is turn around, go and sit on the couch or say ‘Let me wrap up what I am doing, so that I can sit with you for this.’ This gives me a few moments to think well in my head and come up with the right words. In a need to answer immediately, we may end up giving answers which could give rise to more uncomfortable questions.

There is another reason for this. The children are so anxious to get an answer that they are impatient. Most of the times, they will blurt out what they already know about the topic. So, that will help in framing your own answer. It will help you play around the fence.

3. Do not give over information.
This is the biggest tip the counsellor gave me. She said it is important to know how much the child is already aware. Age appropriate and just the enough information is the key. For that, the best thing to do is to follow point no. 2.

Replaying the situation in which my son asked me: “Sex is either male or female, then why did the person in the movie PK said it is something we do?”

(PK threw googly over googly: Dancing cars, condoms, sex is something we do … Gosh! It was like playing with fire.)

I was in the kitchen when A came and asked me this. (Yeah… the eye opening discussions happen in my kitchen.) M remembered to respond to his ‘important’ mail just then. I immediately turned my face away from A to regain composure. (Come one… the least you expect while making Paneer sabzi is your son asking about sex) It also gave me some time to think and wait for him to speak to me more.

I then said, “Yes, sex also means Male or Female. But it also has another meaning.” 
A: “Ya, so what is that?
Me: “It also is something humans do to reproduce. 
(I further waited for a while, when I saw him thinking. I did not say another word.)
A: It is something husband and wife do right?
Me: Yes. 
………..Period. (I am waiting for another mind bender)
A: Ok… 
And he hopped away. Wow! Not bad. I thought. 

Precisely at that moment M came back, gave a smirk and said, “May I please bow before you. I could have never done that!”

I think if your child is coming and asking you these questions, you are in the right path of parenting. It simply says that your child is comfortable talking about things which somewhere in his heart he knows is ‘different.’

I hope this post helps you to handle such situations better. Happy Parenting 🙂

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