“Mummy, how are children born?”
“Keep quiet. You should not ask such questions.”
“Mummy, why was daddy scolding you?”
“Don’t interfere like that!”
“Mummy, why is baby sister different from me?”
“It's because you are a naughty boy.”
Just so that wrong answers will distort a child’s mind. Why, do parents shy away from meeting a child’s curiosity squarely? Why do they thwart the natural curiosity of a child and drive him to satisfy it by less desirable means? A child’s mind is most active during the early years of his life, when it is uncluttered with the problems of life prejudices and fears. This is the time he can be moulded into an intelligent human being. His curiosity can be channelized and his thirst for knowledge nurtured. Yet, parents put down this probing tendency of their children, to impudence and shut them up rudely. This precipitates matters as the mind gets more confused and the curiosity becomes an obsession.
How does one tackle the questions of a child? When something baffles him, the first person he can think of, is the parent, to clarify his doubts. As a baby, he found his answer to his question, ‘what is this?’ by putting it in his mouth. His sense of taste helped him come to conclusion whether he liked ‘this’ or not. Once he starts speaking it is but natural that he will voice his doubts.
You might wonder how to answer his rather difficult questions – remember, the easiest way is the simplest and the easiest way is to be frank. How ‘frank’, is left to your discretion as also the maturity of the child. If you are expecting a second child and your four-year-old asks you searching questions about your bulging stomach and how the little one inside can make his appearance, you will no doubt get flustered.
There is no point in putting off the child by giving him tales of cabbages and storks bringing babies. When he comes to know the truth one day, he will never believe you again. The best way to introduce the facts of life to a child is to have a dog at home. Children can relate to a pet better than to an adult and seeing a dog producing a litter clears his mind and accepts the human parallel more easily. You could even tell the child gently “you are too young to understand. I will tell you gradually, as you grow older”.
Keep up the promise and by and by explain to him the mystery of birth and death. You could make the facts of life sound as a natural phenomenon, rather than a sexual act. The clichéd birds and bees approach helps to a certain extent. You could also get hold of a plastic model of human anatomy and explain the functions of each organ. This way, you can make the sexual act sound as commonplace as eating when hungry or blowing your nose when you have a cold. It is important that he looks upon his body as purely functional machinery which has to be kept in shape to perform its various duties. All this requires tremendous patience and imagination, but it’s worth it!
Heart to heart
There is no point in hiding your financial problems from children. Parents do the mistake of suffering silently, letting the child believe all is well. Have a heart to heart chat with your children about your financial capacity and they will tailor their demands accordingly. Involve them in your problems – after all, they are affected too and have a right to know. If you have had a setback in your career, don’t feel ashamed to tell your children about it. It is better coming from you than a colored version from an outsider!
If your child wants to know why you are fighting with your husband, tell him the reason in as acceptable a manner as you can.
For an open communication channel between two generations, a barrier-down attitude is important. A free and frank exchange of fears, ideas and thoughts will go a long way in making your child a balanced individual. It will instill in him the desire to speak the truth and what’s more, increase your credibility as a person he can look up to.