It’s part of the job description for parents: being able to answer your kids’ questions—all of them. Even the most challenging ones, such as, “Why did grandma get sick for six months and die?” or “Why did that tsunami kill 50,000 people?” or even “Why did those people have to die in the Old Testament?”
The questions can be deeply philosophical—even coming from a kid—or they can be more mundane questions about behavior, friends and what they saw on television. Regardless, as parents, we feel a certain responsibility to be able to provide adequate answers.
In “Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics,” mother and daughter authors Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson provide a helpful framework for parents to consider when faced with difficult questions from their kids. The book is written with kids of all ages in mind—from preschool to teenagers.
Chapters cover such significant topics as sin, death, divorce, difficult stories in the Bible, natural disasters, sexual sin, why people fight and the importance of the gospel.
In the midst of providing a foundation for understanding and responding to these questions, the authors also discuss how parents should be open about not having all the answers.
“One of the primary things we want to say in this book is that parents need to be very upfront, really honest about what they know, what we can know and the fact that all of us struggle with doubt; all of us have questions,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think it’s perfectly fine for us—and actually I think it’s important for us as adults—to tell children that having questions and having doubt and not having all the answers is just part of what it means to be finite human beings.”
The authors write about the fear some parents—including them—have when they do not have an answer to every question kids propose, especially when it comes to faith.
As a mother, Fitzpatrick said she struggled with the idea of not always having the answer to every question. She falsely assumed that if she expressed doubt or didn’t have an adequate response that her kids would ultimately question God.
“There are reasonable, logical answers that we can infer from Scripture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we know why everything is happening,” she said. “I think it’s a really good idea for parents to be able to say to their children, ‘I don’t know the answer to that, honey, and there’s some things that we never will know the answer to until we’re in heaven. But I do know the one who has the answers.’”
Thompson said perhaps the most difficult subject to address with kids is sexual sins or pornography, and that was a complex chapter to write.
“I think the question that maybe we try to avoid [as parents] or we try to hide from was the sexual sins chapter,” she said. “How do we talk to our children about pornography or abuse? I think parents try to ignore that, maybe don’t talk about it to their kids. But in my mind, when we finished writing that chapter, I had some very serious conversations with my children that I don’t think I would have previously even thought about.”
Thompson also believes that if parents don’t address these difficult issues—like sexual sins, pornography and abuse—kids will find answers elsewhere, such as classmates, at school or online.
Ultimately, Fitzpatrick and Thompson hope readers will not only learn practical advice on answering difficult questions but will see the broad narrative of Scripture behind all of life.
“The big story is creation, fall, redemption,” Fitzpatrick said. “If we can get parents to understand and really get a hold of the fact that the Bible isn’t just a bunch of stories that have been sort of slung together but is actually a narrative …. In every one of those paradigms in the narrative—in creation, in fall, in redemption, in consummation—when you see that story being played out throughout the entire Scripture, then really most of the questions that we have fall into those categories.”
Thompson hopes parents will grow in their confidence in God after reading the book and that they would see that “Christianity is really important and speaks to every part of my life” and would be compelled “to their knees in prayer for their children.”
— by Scott Noble
“Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics” by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.
Bethany House Publishers, © 2014, 176 pages, $13.99. Learn more at www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse or visit a local LifeWay Christian store.