Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Question Box

As a pediatrician who is constantly answering children’s questions --my own (staving off bedtime) and my patients who ask everything-- I love Red Humor’s approach of simply and directly answering the “landmine” questions her children ask, in her recent post.   Her post artfully discusses questions about our treatments for people who are very sick, some of whom get better, and some who don’t.  Sometimes when kids ask where people go after they die, they may be asking literally, what happens to their body, see this from KidsHealth and this from the NIH.  There’s a list of books at the end, and a favorite that I can’t get through without crying is The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, or even The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (just about growing older).  It’s okay to let them see you tear up (and then feel better again) if you are so inclined.

About 3 years ago, stemming from my sister the philosopher, I had written a post here about "mothers who lie" and creative mothering.  But a friend of mine used another idea that works sometimes called the "Question Box" which you can use when you either don’t know the answer, or you don’t have the emotional energy or the actual time needed to fully answer, or you want to bring in your partner on the answer, or if you are asked something very private in a very public place, and so on.   It goes something like this, “that is such a great question, here is a short answer now, but I think we should write that down and put it in our question box so we can answer it more fully this weekend when me, you, and daddy are all together” or “…so we can look up the answer in this great book I have on the human body” or “I don’t think I have a good answer to that right now, but let’s make sure we look it up together.”    But then you have to get to that question box at some point!

Another fun approach to a different kind of question box question is to just lay it out there, “You are never going to believe the answer to this question” and then go ahead and tell them exactly how that baby really comes out of the woman’s body.  Tell them the people in their 2nd grade class at school may not know this information yet, and they can wait until their own mommies tell them the answer. And, you can wait a wee bit longer on telling them how the baby gets in there.  Just the facts, ma’am.

It’s about creative mothering and telling the truth.  And being in a special place because of what we do at work every day.  And being there for our own children’s growing minds and emotional development.  With lots of questions and some well-timed answers.

5 comments:

  1. Love the question box! We do that, although not in the same way - "That's a great question! We'll talk about it tomorrow" for the inevitable great questions that are posed at bedtime.

    I answered all her questions about sex and reproduction honestly at the appropriate level, which meant small bits of information followed by "what do you think about that?" until I got the clear message that it was enough. "Stop, Mom! Do we have to talk about this?" happened much more quickly at 12 than it did at 8, and I'm glad we had the conversations at 8 when she was willing to listen and talk. She still does talk to us (she's 14) and I am careful to keep the conversation going by asking general questions and honestly answering what she asks. Yes, honestly. Yes, every time. Yes, starting when she asked how the baby got out at age 4 and how the baby got in at age 5. Yes, with accurate language. We're doctors. We really should be able to talk about the human body.

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    1. You sound like a great listener! Yeah, small bits of accurate info, and asking them a sincere question about what they think. Answering honestly and listening with interest. Makes for great conversations, and all those accurately named body parts too, uterus and the like.

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  2. Love the "question box". I'm borrowing that idea for the BeeHive :-)

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    1. Ah yes, for the beehive! Or, you could see how it goes over in residency morning report...

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  3. Hey! I just saw this (I have been off the blogging grid for over a week now... ). Great post. I also consider myself a "creative mother" and that isn't a reference to my arts & crafts skill....

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