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How to encourage your children to be open

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Pink microphones. Check.
Cheese popcorn. Check.
Princess and the Popstar DVD. Check.

Everything was ready for our mini – movie slash concert afternoon.

I sank on the couch while the girls stood up on their makeshift stage to sing along with Keira and Tori. Ah my perfect brand of entertainment.

After their rousing performance, my girls sat in the couch and snuggled next to me. I was ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the movie.

But just as the songs ended, the questions began.

“Mom, why does Keira have purple hair?” Kalia asked.
“Well, she’s a pop star and she wants to look cool. See it’s just a wig.”

“Mom, why did Cryder say budget? Is it a bad word?” It was Jamaine this time.
“It’s not a bad word, budget means money to buy things.”

“Mom, why does Keira call Cryder Seymour?”
“Mom, what’s a speech?”

“Mom…mom…mom…why…why…why…”

And so it went for the next hour or so. Our movie picnic turned into an interview about magic brushes, garden fairies and men stealing diamond trees.

It was not the perfect way to enjoy a movie, I almost went nuts trying to answer question after question after question.

One day, my movie buff of a hubby was watching with us and snapped a little at the big girl when she started asking her questions.

“You know, Jamaine stop asking and focus on the movie so you can understand.”

We all know the rule, right? Keep your mouth shut when watching a movie.

Seemingly endless Q and A. Big fat X.

But this was a rule I had to break with my girls.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that my kids can be noisy in a movie theater. During the few times that we did watch in a theater, I had to tell them to keep quiet before we entered because there were other people watching with us.

But when we’re watching at home, I let them ask away.

And I make sure to watch the movie by myself at least once before they do.

Keep your mouth shut

Or so we’re told when we were kids.

Childhood was the time to listen, not to speak up.

And now I understand why. Oh my, kids ask a lot, and I mean a whole lot, of questions.

Answering a seemingly endless stream of “why… why…. why…” is going to test your patience. It sure tried mine.

Sometimes you’ll be tempted to just dismiss them with the very convenient, “I don’t know.”

But try to stretch your patience just a little bit longer and just keep on answering those questions. Give them real answers and keep explaining until they understand.

Where do you want your kids to get answers?

My kids are at that phase now, where they want to know about everything

And beyond the world of fantasy and movies, I always try to look at this Q and A sessions as opportunities to help them understand how the world works and how they are a part of it.

I am grateful I get to be here and hear their questions because I’d rather they get their answers from me.

I’m grateful my children are curious and they want to learn more.

Mind-opened-by-wonder

But what if you really don’t know the answer?

I remember a rule I learned when I was starting to work in TV: when someone (especially your boss) asks you about something you really don’t know about, choose to say “I will find out and I will get back to you” instead.

And that is the same response I give to my children.

Saying “I don’t know” is like a dead end on the way to knowledge.

Saying “I’ll find out” is like a detour that allows you to learn more, to wonder and to explore.

“You’re so smart Mommy, you know everything,” my big girl once said.

Flattering as that maybe to be the omnipotent one in my children’s world, I wanted to be honest with them because mommy does not always have the answers. But I’m willing to learn when I need to.

But what if you feel they’ve been asking it for the super nth time?

Sometimes I do sense when my kids ask just a little bit too much.

When that happens, I’ll throw the question back at them and ask them “Well, why do you think so?”

That gets the wheels turning in their heads and they always come up with their own answers.

One time, I heard the big sister explaining the movie to her little sister, and her explanation was spot on, just as I had explained to her many times before.

Kids need to repeat to remember.

So in the meantime, I patiently explain, explain and explain some more until my girls understand.

I know that if I want my kids to be open to me, I have to allow them to ask questions, even if sometimes I don’t know the answer.

I have to let them speak their mind, even if I may not always agree with them.

There are always ways to put my point across while still respecting their feelings.

Openness may not be achieved overnight. But it is a relationship built one conversation at a time.

Check

We were sitting on the rubber mats in the playroom ready for another movie picnic.

Chocolate chip cookies. Check.
Fluffy pillows. Check.
Barbie in the Swan Lake. Check.
Q and A. Super Big Check.

I’ve accepted that, when I’m watching with my girls, it will be awhile before I can enjoy a movie in peace again. At least for now.

But in an age where all kinds of information is available at the tap of a finger, I remind myself to be grateful that my children can and want to learn from me.

Soon enough, they’ll be asking the bigger, tougher questions about life. And by that time, I know that they’ll know whom to ask and where to go.

How do you handle your kid’s “why…why…why…”?

I’d love to hear your sanity saving tips in the comments below.

Patience and popcorn,

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