In their first interview since returning home to Britain after being named suspects, Kate and Gerry McCann said they talk to their two-year-old twins about missing daughter Madeleine "all the time".
The couple told reporters nothing was hidden from their children and when they ask where their older sister is they reply: "She isn't here at the moment."
Cardiologist Gerry, 39, told reporters: "We talk about Madeleine to the twins all the time. It's not a hidden subject or anything like that. We discuss her all the time.
"There is no attempt to shield them from Madeleine. Questions as and when they arise are dealt with. When we were in Portugal we told them she was on a little trip."
He said the family is enduring a mixture of emotions, with brief moments of good news tempered by negative reports.
GP Kate, also 39, spoke of the comfort she found returning to their home in Rothley, Leicestershire.
She said it was "uplifting" to go to church last Sunday, and thanked her community and neighbours for their support.
Although they are constantly reminded of Madeleine, she said the couple were heartened by seeing the twins so happy to be back home.
Despite their experiences, the couple expect they will one day return to Portugal for many reasons "spiritual, emotional and social".
Gerry stressed the couple were "not seeking to run" and would return as and when they wished, and that there was "no question" of them not complying with any formal interview requests from police.
The only thing that would truly make them happy, he said, would be to find out what has happened to Madeleine.Reuse content