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Answering Kids' Toughest Questions

Q: "Why are you two fighting?"

A: "When you love someone and spend a lot of time with someone, you can disagree on some things. And we just had a disagreement over why your father hadn't taken the lawn mower to get fixed yet."

When kids ask questions about things we think they're not ready for, it's tempting to be evasive. But that just leaves the kids thinking "What?" and coming up with their own answers. Not good. Instead, simply say "It doesn't mean we don't love each other. It just means we disagree about things every once in a while. When that happens, our voices may get louder and we get more emotional, and sometimes when we get emotional, it shows we care," suggests Myrna Shure, Ph.D., author of Thinking Parent, Thinking Child.

Q: "Why were you on top of Daddy?"

A: "When two people are in love, they like to be close to each other physically."

Literally and figuratively, there's no need to be in this position at all (hello, door locks). But if you are, you can get around it with little ones, after you properly separate ("Just hugging and playing, darling"). The savvier kids get, though, the more uncomfortable the scene. Try not to overreact in the heat of the moment. "Stay very objective and explain what's happening in a supportive voice, not an embarrassed one," says Shure. And if she comes right out and asks if you were having sex? "Say yes—and we should have locked the door. Then tell her you'll talk with her more about it in the morning," advises Shure. No need for a long discussion.

Q: "Who do you love best?"

A: "Why would you think I like one of you better?"

Here, your child senses something—that you like a sibling's art project, athletic prowess, or report card—and no matter how hard you try to be fair, she sees favoritism in it. So your goal is to elicit information—finding out why your child thinks her siblings are getting all the love. Of course, the child is simply looking for reassurance from you—on a school project, band recital, swim meet. So talk about all the things you love about her. Be careful not to dismiss the question outright, and be sensitive. Kids do pick up when one parent has a natural affinity to one child.

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