Answering a Preschooler's Hard Questions: "Are We Rich?"

Family Matters on 10.27.11
Contributor bio

At three and three quarters, W now has the confidence -- and curiosity -- to take question asking to a new level. Embedded in many of his inquiries is a clear recognition of difference: old vs. young; sick vs. healthy; big vs. small. It seems inevitable that rich vs. poor can't be far behind.

I'll Be Ready

In preparation for the queries that will surely arise once W is clued into socio-economic differences, I've turned to Sharon Peters of Parents Helping Parents. I'm hopeful that others will also benefit from her guidance as an informal survey of preschool-parenting friends tells me that along with princesses and super heroes, economics is becoming a hot topic at the dinner table.

No "Right" Explanations

How do you explain poverty to a four year old? How do you convince him that his family isn't "rich" because he has lots of toys and eats three good meals a day? According to Peters, you don't. "You want to set up conditions over the course of your parenting that helps you not feel pressure to come up with the "right" explanations," she says. "These questions are tough for adults to answer.

Your Way IS the Right Way

When it comes to talking to your young child about difficult subjects sharing your opinion is the right thing to do. I love this because I can't mess it up: expressing my thoughts is the way to go. Easy. "There are a whole range of beliefs that parents have on economics and I think it is important for parents to share their opinions," Peters explains. "Parents have to speak from their own hearts about where they stand on these issues."

Speak. And then get very quiet.

The number one tip I've gleaned from Peters is to talk to my kid and then get serious about shutting up. "You state your position clearly, but set up conditions for the child to express their own thoughts," she says. "It's really important to let kids express their opinions. Listen to the framework the child is posing and don't get alarmed by what they say. This is the start of a long discussion over time."

One thing's for sure: I'm going to keep listening (very) closely to what Peters has to say.

Photo: bakingforgood/Creative Commons 

Top Articles on Preschoolers
Answering a Preschooler's Hard Questions: "Where do Bad Guys Come From?"
Answering a Preschooler's Hard Questions: "What's a Cemetery?"
Life with a Preschooler: How Much Radio News is OK?