How to Answer Children's Difficult Questions

Surely you've wondered how to possibly answer some of your children's difficult questions. Here are some keys to keep in mind.
How to Answer Children's Difficult Questions
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 19 June, 2023

All children, from birth, try to figure out how the world works. As they grow up, they maintain this curiosity, but in a different way than when they were babies. Between the ages of 3 and 5, children start to ask their parents some of the most difficult questions. They can sometimes catch us off guard and we don’t know what to answer.

When children begin to dominate language, their questions are the way to obtain valuable information that helps them to understand the world. That’s why we have to keep in mind that curiosity is the key to learning. In this article, we’re going to see how to answer our children’s most difficult questions. If you want to know more, don’t miss it.

Why do parents find the most difficult questions from their children so difficult?

There’s nothing that prepares us for the curious stage of our children and their most difficult questions. This may be because when we were little, our parents would respond with “You’re not old enough to know yet” or “When you’re older, you’ll know”. However, these types of phrases do nothing but deteriorate communication. In addition, the fact of not answering these questions may generate anguish or uncertainty for the child.

Although sometimes we don’t know the answer to their questions either, it’s important that we tend to them and give them a coherent and positive answer. For example, there are topics that are complicated to deal with, such as death, separations, sex, or religion, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t give them an answer to calm their concerns.

A mother who doesn't know how to respond to her children's questions.
If adults aren’t able to give answers to children’s concerns or we do it in a complicated way, their motivation to learn may decline.

How can we answer the most difficult questions from children?

All of us, at some point, have encountered or will encounter questions that our children ask us and that are difficult to answer. In this situation, we can take into account the following guidelines to be able to answer these questions.

We should never scold them for their curiosity

Whenever our children ask us questions, we have to make them feel that we’re interested in their concerns and worries. We can’t scold them for their curiosity in the face of a question that makes us uncomfortable. On the contrary, we must try to establish open communication with the children in which trust is a priority from the time they’re small.

Try to answer them spontaneously

Sometimes, the difficult questions that little ones ask us leave us embarrassed and it’s difficult for us to be natural when answering. At that moment, if we can’t think of anything, we can tell them to wait a moment while they play and we’ll come back to solve their question. This will give us some time to think about what answer to give them and do it in a natural way, without getting nervous.

Wait for our children’s opinion

When little ones ask us questions, we shouldn’t provide them with a rushed response. It’s better to ask them if they know anything about the topic in question and what they think about it. Surely, we’ll enjoy their answers, as at that age, they’re full of innocence, creativity, and imagination.

If we don’t have an answer to their question, let them know

We may find ourselves in a situation where our child asks us a question for which we have no answer. In these cases, the best thing to do is to let them know that parents don’t always have the answer to all their questions.

A little boy asking his mother a question that she doesn't know how to answer.
Adults should explain to children that parents don’t have the answers to every question but that whenever they ask us, we’ll try to clarify their doubts.

There’s no need to give extensive explanations

When our children ask us a question, it’s important to be precise and give them the information in a clear and straightforward way. At the same time, formulating very extensive answers will only make them ask us more questions and they’ll end up with more doubts than they had in the first place. Of course, we have to adapt the information we provide to the child’s age.

If we don’t know the answer, we can look for it together

Our children may ask us about something we don’t know. On the one hand, this happens often; on the other hand, we don’t have to know everything. So, when this happens, we can tell them that we don’t know, but we can try to find the answer together. For example, looking for information on the internet or in a picture book, as long as it’s appropriate for their age, is an excellent alternative.

We’ll always tell the truth

If we’re not clear and don’t tell the truth to avoid answering certain difficult questions from our children, we may enter into contradictions in the future. It’s always better to give an answer that’s simple but true rather than using metaphorical language or resorting to lies.

On how to answer children’s most difficult questions

We may, at times, feel uncomfortable with children’s most difficult questions, but we don’t have to see it that way. In reality, complex questions don’t exist, although there are questions that we don’t know how to answer properly or that we don’t have the answer to at the time.

When this happens to us, we can help ourselves with the advice we’ve given you in this article. Also, we can use rhetorical questions to help us transform that question into a learning process.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Stoppard, M. (1998). Las preguntas difíciles que hacen los niños. Ediciones Barataria.
  • Elwin Harris, G. (2012). Las grandes preguntas de los niños y las sencillas respuestas de los grandes. Ediciones Paidot.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.