There is lots of talk out there about how to best respond to adults who ask the childfree why they don’t have kids. But what about when kids ask? I recently asked my Brazilian friend Aggie who is a School Counselor …
..and does not have children by choice. She works at an elementary school (K-5), and works with students who are 5-11 years old. I first asked her how she responds when kids ask her why she does not have kids. She explains that, “Kids never ask me directly why I do not have children. Instead they ask me if I have kids. Age makes a difference. When some older students (4th & 5th graders) ask me if I have children they become a bit puzzled when I say no. But they move on with no further questions or judgments. The younger kids, (K-3) generally don’t ask me this question.”
Aggie’s experience has been different than mine. With kids ages 4 and up, I have not only been asked if I have kids, but why I don’t have them. They have generally been kids of friends or acquaintances of mine. Aggie and I agree that our experiences can very well be due to having different roles with the kids. She works with kids and is in a “professional role they respect.” Me–I am a friend of their parents, and there can be a more informal kind of rapport such that they query to the more personal question of why.
In any case, Aggie makes an insightful point — “I think adults are usually much more judgmental than children. Kids ask many questions simply because they are curious. It is normal and instinctual. It seems many adults ask questions because they are ready to jump to conclusions and be judgmental.”
When kids have asked me if and why I don’t have children, sometimes they have gone a bit further and ask why I don’t like kids. They assume that I don’t like children because I don’t have them. They are not judging me like a parent might, but taking it more personally–that it must mean that I don’t like them. So in response, I make sure I explain it has nothing to do with not liking them.
In general, how best to respond to kids when they ask this kind of thing? Like Aggie says, how to respond depends on the kid’s age, “the maturity of the child and my level of comfort discussing the subject with him or her.”
Whatever the age, I hold the mindset that this is an opportunity to communicate the idea that parenthood is optional in life. To younger kids I have said things like, “Not all people grow up to be moms and dads. Some grow up and get to be aunties and godmoms like me!” Or to kids that are a bit older, I cast it as more, “Growing up and becoming a mom or dad is totally up to you–it is not something that happens to everyone.”
There are many ways to communicate it’s not a given in life, and I believe the childfree should take any chance they get to impart this to the next generation!
Childfree, what do you say when kids ask you if have kids? Or why you don’t have kids?