At my workshop last Saturday, a mother told me her son had asked about Prince’s song “Cream”. Her answer at the time was that it’s like the cream you put in coffee. She knew she’d dodged the question, and asked me what she should do now that her son thinks the song is about a dairy product.
I’m sympathetic, really I am! I know these questions can pop up anytime, when you least expect it. I know answering these questions can be uncomfortable.
Here’s the thing I want you to remember though:
Your children depend on you to make them capable and help them understand the world.
While mom protected her child’s innocence for the moment, he’s still ignorant, and when he finds out the real answer, he won’t be going back to her with more questions. She didn’t know (didn’t share) the answer to the first question, so why would there be a second? From his point of view, mom’s not a good source of information, and he needs to know this stuff to keep up with his peers.
Don’t undermine your own credibility with your child!
If you can’t give a straight answer, there will be no more questions.
That door slams shut. Sometimes our kids think we’re clueless because we’re answering their questions this way. It makes us more comfortable, but it hurts their ability to navigate the world.
Not only that, by “protecting their innocence,” and giving misinformation that your child may pass on to friends, you’ve created the opportunity for deep embarrassment.
Your child will never be grateful to you for making them look like a fool.
How to make this right?
I suggested she tell her son just what she’d tell a friend.
“You know, you asked me about ____, and I told you ____, but there’s actually more to it. It didn’t feel right to me / I was nervous to share this with you because ____. What I actually think is ____. I wanted you to know because ____.”
Be vulnerable. Be real. Tell them the truth.
You can always take a moment for a parenting do-over! Admitting your mistakes builds trust and your child will appreciate your humility. You’re modeling how to revisit something you regret, and they’ll need your example to follow in their friendships, their relationships, and when they are parents themselves.
If your child is asking questions, and you’re concerned about sharing too much or too little information, or wondering what’s age appropriate, or even what phrasing to use, I can help! These questions (and the do-overs!) are really important opportunities to connect with your child on a deeper level.
If you’re missing these opportunities to connect, either because you’re dodging the questions or because your child isn’t coming to you with questions in the first place, I’d love to help you open up the communication. Click here to schedule a time when we can talk. It’s free. Let’s make sure your kids are turning to YOU for information, not Google, porn, or their peers.
In support of you,
P.S. Check out the What to Say When webinar for an age-by-age guide to what conversations to have and when. It will help you know what’s age appropriate so you can better judge which questions to answer and in how much detail.