Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz, writing on the NPR website, provide a guide for ways to tackle children’s really tough questions. Here are a couple examples of their ideas:
“When you get a tough question, listen for what the child is really asking.
Don't rush to answer. Pause and ask for clarification. This does a few things. First, it buys you time to choose your words carefully. It also stops you from answering the wrong question.
Say: ‘That's a great question. Let's find out more together.’
This is a good response to have up your sleeve for complex issues: science, history, race, gender, politics, scary incidents in the news or any time a question catches you off guard. ‘We can say, let's explore this together, because that question is really a big one,' says Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop.”
Nick Terrones, in his popular new book, A Can of Worms: Fearless Conversations with Toddlers, shares his journey of learning to stop being afraid to address the big questions about life that toddlers are exploring. He provides an inspiring example to any early childhood practitioner of what it means to develop authentic relationships with children. He explains, “I am continually learning from toddlers—not only about who they are, but about who I am. They inspire me to remain steadfast in refining myself, which in turn encourages me to refine my actions with others.”
Fearless Conversations with Toddlers
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Toddlers ask big, bold questions every day. Teachers and caregivers give shape to the world as they respond to those questions. The conversation unfolds in an electric moment—an awkward, exciting, bewildering moment. A Can of Worms is a guide and support for celebrating these most important conversations. Have no fear! Take a deep breath, and respond.
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Francis, wow! thank you for using your voice to advocate for children and families.
-Tiffany at Exchange
In today's ExchangeEveryDay, Jeanette Betancourt of Sesame Street Workshop advises telling children that, "we can explore this together, because that question is really a big one." I am so glad Sesame Street has come to this realization. In the mid-1980s, when I was struggling to provide my four young children with a healthy sense of multiracial identity, Sesame Street launched what they called their "Race Project." I was thrilled: here would be a place where my children could see healthy mixed-race families and children like themselves. But no: all the couples and families portrayed by Sesame Street Workshop in this project were the same race. When I called them to complain, they said that providing a mixed-race family "would be too difficult to do". Now, finally, they understand the importance of addressing difficult questions, even for adults!