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Sustained Kid Talk

When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Faith-filled Responses for Tough Topics by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Kate Ware Jackson - A Book Review

B. McCleneghan and K. Jackson, When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Faith-filled Responses for Tough Topics (2019) has a broad subject scope. The questions are hard questions, and the content is for adults.  The answers offered are process answers, and the advice supports engagement in sustained conversation.

The chapters are organized in six sections reflecting on bodies, relationships, loss, fears, how the world works, and economics.  The questions addressed include friendships, gender identity, body image, sexual honesty, mental illness, addiction, suicide, blended families, divorce, parenting, grief, anger, race, violence, bullying, guns, doubts, other faith communities, prison, forgiveness, anxiety, poverty, generosity, and screen management.

This is a book for adults, particularly parents.  It is not a book for children. It is a book for adults who talk to children. In avoiding clever biblical proof-texting, the book contains little demonstrated interest in the relevance of biblical experience in dealing with hard questions.  The unspoken premise is that the Bible is what it is. (For a fuller guide to understanding biblical values, see J. Collins, What are Biblical Values?  What the Bible Says on Key Ethical Issues (2019).

The editors urge conversation and creating the capacity for sustained conversation with children as they mature.  The main theme is how to structure conversation with children and to encourage creative approaches to difficult conversations that are empowering, hopeful, sustainable, and faith-positive.

The chapter authors, who are mostly pastors, speak from within a liberal U.S. Christian faith perspective.  This is not a determined interfaith effort. The book excludes Buddhists, Mormons, and Muslims, but it includes one chapter by a Jewish leader. There is no recognition of a Catholic perspective on these questions within the Christian tradition. The authors seek to be candid and avoid cringing at rigid responses. Their intention is to provide good ways to answer hard questions.

The book lacks an index, which is a serious deficiency for eager parent readers. 

This book is a serious effort by the mostly Protestant Christian authors of individual chapters to address hard questions and to encourage strong adult-child relationship foundations for continuing conversation on these hard issues.  The quality varies, but they all stimulate the reader’s reflection.  These chapters contain many ideas for adult use. If this chapter does not contain the answers you seek, what is the better answer?  This book is a place to start the adult thinking process, particularly for Protestant Christian adults.

Quakers: The book contains no reference to Quakers.


  • Do Quaker adults have an approach to hard questions asked by Quaker children that is different from the approach provided by these mainly Protestant Christian authors?
  • Where do Quaker adults go for advice in dealing with hard questions raised by Quaker children?



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