It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Fragile Questions (Part 2)

Kent Nerburn’s comments in my last posting are very true. I have validated them many times in my work with young people. Sometimes we are singled out for a special question or request, and a youngster doesn’t always handle the asking well. We ought, however, take a moment to reflect on how difficult it might be for the child to ask, or the many times they may have agonized over asking in the first place.

An example. Early in my practice as a child and adolescent psychologist, a 10-year-old girl was brought to me by her parents. These were wonderful folks. Dad was dying with cancer and knew his illness was having an affect on this their youngest, last-one-in-the-nest, daughter.

One day in session she looked up to me and asked, “Is my daddy going to die?” Can you just imagine how painful it was for her to ask that question? But in asking the question it seemed like she was searching for verification of what she thought to be the case anyway. Obviously, I told her the truth with as much sensitivity and support as I could provide. She handled it well; kids generally do.

On another occasion, I worked with a nine-year-old boy who had recently had surgery for the removal of a benign brain tumor. He came through the surgery just fine, but when he came back to school, he fell apart academically. It seemed he could not to ANYTHING after the surgery that pertained to class work.

He was a great kid–warm, cordial, interactive. Halfway through my session with him he asked, “Will I ever be able to THINK again?”

“What do you mean,” I questioned.

“Well, they took out my brain. How am I supposed to THINK?”

He thought the surgeon had removed his WHOLE brain! No wonder he was having difficulty! You should have seen the relief on his face and in his body when I told him he STILL HAD his brain. He instantly became the happiest kid I have ever seen, and his school work improved immediately.

But what if he had never asked the question that put me onto the problem?

Validate fragile questions. They’re important.

James Sutton, Psychologist   


January 22, 2007 - Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem


  1. The truth shall set you free!

    Yes, it is important to keep our ears open when children ask questions and to give them the truth in a way that they can understand and enough to satisfy their curiosity.


    Comment by tobeme | January 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. Yes it is so true that we adults sometimes forget that children have limited experience in life and don’t always understand what they hear or are unable to articulate what they are really thinking. I remember as a child struggling with hearing someone talking about someone who didn’t drink anymore. I had been taught that a person couldn’t live very long at all without water so this made no sense to me. I tried desperately to wrap my mind around this for years until one day I figured a way to ask about it. It was a lesson on word play I suppose. At best we adults have to be mindful of this fact and although we can’t read their minds we can at least be aware and therefore more likely to notice when they are not understanding or are not able to speak up about what’s bugging them.


    Comment by Desiree | January 25, 2007 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s