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How to Respond to Your Kid's Tough Questions

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been caught off guard by your kid. Your kid says something that makes you raise your eyebrows and glance over at your spouse as if to say, ‘Not it. It’s your turn.’ Maybe she asked about sex, dropped a big question about politics that doesn’t have an easy answer, grilled you on theology, or mentioned a big topic you haven’t introduced yet. Or maybe he is asking about a topic you never had to navigate as a kid and haven’t finished wrestling with as an adult. What do you do when your kid pops a question you haven’t prepared for?

And most likely, when the questions come out of the blue like that, you haven’t done your homework. Kids and teens are honest… really honest. And they don’t have a filter yet. So their questions don’t always come at a convenient time. Young people don’t (and can’t) discern when it’s the right time to ask a big question. They ask these big questions in random, little moments, moments when you are just trying to get through to the next thing. They ask at bedtime when you just need them to fall asleep so you can finish a few things from your day. They ask in the car when you’re hustling to your next appointment. You could change the subject or pretend you didn’t hear. But you could decide that your kid and his poor timing are worth setting aside your schedule and your nervousness. Your young person can’t wait for you to craft a flawless presentation with perfect answers. He’s asking now. 

So what should you do when you get put in the hot seat?
  • Don’t panic, don’t freak out. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Try to stay level-headed. You are the adult in this conversation, after all. If you blow up in anger or act shocked or stunned, your child may decide to find answers somewhere else next time they have a big question or need to talk.
  • Recognize the opportunity. This is a chance to do more than just answer a random question. You’ve just been personally invited to influence your young person and build trust for the next big(ger) question that comes along. Springtide Research found that 25% of young people say they have one or fewer adults to go to when they need to talk. Congratulations- you are one of those people! This unscheduled heart to heart is a high honor.
  • If you can, make time. If you can’t, work together to decide on a time in the next 24-48 hours to revisit the question. Making time will show your child that you are willing to set aside schedules and tasks to help them navigate the issue at hand. And to a young person, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
  • Be honest and sincere. Put your phone away (even if they don’t). Resist the urge to check the time. Practice active listening techniques: maintain eye contact, nod, ask clarifying questions. Don’t make up an answer. Admitting you are wrong or that you don’t know are crucial elements of authenticity and integrity. Making up an answer to quicken the conversation will have the opposite effect. 
  • Follow up and follow through. Remember what was exchanged and return to the topic at a later time. Keep the lines of communication open by asking follow-up questions or pursuing the conversation further. Carry out the commitments you made in the conversation. Do what you say you will do. 

To stay up to date on culturally relevant topics and vocabulary and be ready for these hot seat questions, we like the weekly Culture Translator newsletter. It provides a quick glimpse into what influences teens right now, an insightful perspective on relevant topics, a nudge to initiate conversations about underlying issues. 

For additional information on specific topics, conversation guides, or resources for further reading, please visit the Faith@Home Center on Sunday morning or connect with our Family Ministry team using the ‘Connect with Us’ button below. 

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.*

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