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Susan Froome looks at why children ask such difficult questions and wonders what to say when there are no easy answers.

But why Mum? Why Mum? Why Mum? Why… (sigh)

This is what I hear most days from my two daughters and most days I can come up with an answer that will keep them (Sadie 6 and Scarlett 3) happy until the next question comes along that they absolutely NEED to know the answer to - like: “Why do we have belly buttons?”; “Why do I only have two ears?”; “why are you covered in spots mummy? (They are freckles by the way).

I always answer as truthfully as I can because for children, “why” questions help them make sense of the world around them. These “why” questions also help spur and accelerate learning. Our adult responses are crucial and pivotal in helping our children channel their curiosity.

So what do we do when we are asked questions that we don’t really want to give an honest answer to? 

As a striking example, when my eldest caught a glimpse of the news and saw Grenfell Tower going up in flames and people crying, she asked me what was happening?

I answered as simply and as honestly as I could that there was a fire, and some people died.  That seemed to be enough and then she carried on playing with her Barbie.  Oh to be able to switch off from some of the world's tragedies just like that.

There is one thing that seems to have struck a real chord with Sadie though and that’s our environment and the animals that share it with us (and even those that do not exist anymore).

She seems to question these things a lot more than any other subject and she seems to care very deeply about the issues that we are currently facing.  

Pedalling pollution

On a recent holiday to Malta, my husband and I thought it would be nice to take the girls out on a pedalo so there we were pedalling out to sea (well my husband was, I was just moving my legs to look as though I was helping) when Sadie let out a huge gasp…. “Agghh what is it?” I screamed thinking jaws had made a comeback. “There is rubbish in the sea Mummy.”

I had noticed this myself but I suppose I had become so used to seeing it that I didn’t bat an eyelid (this itself is a problem - are we letting this become the norm?).

For Sadie though this was her first experience of seeing the seabed and she was expecting fish and coral, not beer cans and wrappers. This led to even more questions of course: “Why is it in the sea?” “Why are people so lazy not to put it in the bin?” “Why are people putting their rubbish in the fish’s home?”

So what was supposed to be a relaxing little float around (for me) turned into Sadie asking a million questions as to why people can’t just throw their rubbish in the bin. 

I asked her why this was troubling her so much and her answer was simple: “because the animals in the ocean will die” and she’s right.  

But when did a 6-year-old become so aware of this and when did we adults seem to stop caring?  

Here at Mitsubishi Electric, we’ve developed an award-winning educational programme for primary school children which teaches them about the 3 ‘R’s’ of Recycling; Re-Use and Renewables. We believe it is vital to help tomorrow’s consumers understand how they can make a difference.

We just now need to find ways to reach adults!

Plastic pollution in the oceans is something we have tried to focus on in other Hub articles as it is fast becoming a deadly serious issue as these articles by my colleagues Ellina Webb, looking at whether we need to ban plastic bottles, and Russell Jones, commenting on plans to jail people for carrying a plastic bag demonstrate. 

Who knows, maybe we do need to follow the Kenyan example and jail people to protect the environment! We may all think that our one little sweet wrapper or bottle isn’t going to make a difference but the fact is, it does.  Collectively, we are destroying our oceans and Sadie for one is NOT happy about it.

This infographic helps illustrate part of the the problem showing for example that Worldwide, I million plastic bags are used every minute. Remember, it takes one plastic bag 1,000 years to completely degrade.

So when you next have a wrapper in your hand and you’re about to just throw it on the ground because you can’t see a bin, please just stop and think… What answer would you give to Sadie when she asks you “Why?”  

Susan Froome is Marketing Administrator at Mitsubishi Electric

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