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Aug 22

Q is for Questions are Healthy

Posted on August 22, 2022 at 2:31 PM by Kari Bray

This is Part 17 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at  

Top Three Take-Aways:  

  1. Curiosity helps pave the way for problem-solving, creativity, and resilience.  
  2. Think through how you will handle difficult questions without discouraging children or shutting down the conversation.  
  3. Help children fill their toolbox with ways to find answers. 

Encourage curiosity 

Children are full of wonder. Any mystery they see, they want to solve. They are continually putting the pieces of their world together, trying to understand how things work and how they can be part of it. 

little boy at aquariumThey ask a lot of questions. For young children in particular, parents or primary caregivers are often the first stop for answers. This desire for knowledge is healthy for mental and emotional development.   

Curiosity is the root of creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. It’s not just your child who may benefit from asking questions, but the whole community as your child grows, learns, and contributes with their knowledge and skills. 

The ability to wonder and learn also helps build resilience. An open mind and willingness to ask and answer questions can help people through major life challenges. 

Adults can do a lot to nurture curiosity in children. Share in their excitement when they show interest in something. If their exploration starts getting out of hand, redirect their energy rather than stopping it. Maybe they shouldn’t be “experimenting” with water, soap, and markers in the living room, but is it something they can explore outside or in the bath where the mess is more manageable?  

Find books or videos on topics they want to learn about. Have conversations. Ask them questions, too. Listen, answer to the best of your ability, and gently correct misconceptions as they fill up on new information.  

Tips for answering hard questions 

Some questions are easier than others. “What’s that?” “Where are we going?”  

Some are trickier but can be answered with a little bit of searching and reading. “How far away is the moon?” “Which dinosaur was the biggest?”  

And some questions are deeply challenging, either because the answer is complicated, there’s a lot of emotion involved, or your child is too young for all the details. These can be about societal issues or things that happen in their personal life. 

When it comes to tough questions, the most important thing will be your relationship with your child. Trust, understanding, and patience go a long way. Here are some tips: 

  1. Listen closely. Clarify what they are asking and why. Are you jumping to conclusions about what they want to know? A popular example is, “Where did I come from?” You probably don’t need to dive into human reproduction – they may just want to know if they were born in your current city or somewhere else. Do they need detailed information or reassurance? If they ask about whether divorcing parents or grandparents still love each other, the most important part of your answer has nothing to do with the divorce itself. It’s about reassuring a child that these crucial people in their life will still love and be there for them, and that the fighting or separation is not the child’s fault. 
  2. “I don’t know” is a fair answer. It can be tempting to pretend we know more than we do. That breaks trust and teaches bad habits, like making assumptions or sharing half-truths. Sometimes, the most helpful answer is that you don’t have an answer. These are chances to learn with your child and show them the importance of persevering when they can’t find information right away. Be honest and show them that it is OK to admit when you don’t know something. Work with them to find an answer together. 
  3. Don’t shy away from emotions. Help children feel safe and loved. Some of the hardest questions are about things that impact us but are out of our control. When children suffer their first loss of a loved one or hear about a local or national tragedy, they may have questions. Talk to them about how you are feeling and make sure they know it is OK to feel strong emotions, too. Admit that some things don’t have easy answers. Focus on the span of your control. It’s normal to be sad, angry, or scared. We can love each other, be kind, and do our part to make the world a little brighter. Remind them that you are there whenever they want to talk.  
  4. Pace your answers and leave the door open for follow-ups. Children’s attention tends to go in a lot of directions. Instead of an in-depth monologue, answer their more complicated questions with a few key pieces first. Wait to see if they want more information right away, or if they want to revisit it later. Keep terms simple and age appropriate. For example, if a young child asks about a loved one who is struggling with substance use disorder, you could explain that the loved one is using something that makes them sick, and the sickness makes it very hard for them to stop using it. Children may want to talk more about why or how something is making their loved one sick, or they may move on to another topic and circle back days or even weeks later.  

Teach how to learn 

Help children learn how to get answers to their questions.  

It often feels like we have the world at our fingertips with the internet. Older children will learn quickly that they can find answers with a search – but do they know how to find accurate answers? 

Little girl with questions marks above her headModel good behavior. When you look up answers, explain where you found them and why you trust the information. Teach them to check their sources and ask, “How do they know that? Where did that come from?”   

Talk about how to get information offline. Encourage children and teens to check out books from their school or local library if they want to dive into a topic. Remind them that there are experts who can help, too. Want to improve your performance in a sport? Talk with your coach or trainer. Worried about something health-related? Ask a doctor. 

They also should appreciate the knowledge that surrounds them in their personal network. Are there questions they should be asking friends and family? 

Finally, urge them to take advantage of learning opportunities. If they have a chance to talk with someone with special knowledge, take an interesting class, or participate in hands-on learning, they should do it. They may end up finding answers to questions they didn’t even know they had. 

Take some time now to check off the “Q” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. What questions are your kids asking, and how can you help them learn? 

Remember that, while some questions can be challenging, it is healthy for children to keep asking and seeking new information.