It’s one of those things that most parents do not want to think about, but sooner or later, your child is going to start asking questions about where they came from, and how babies are made.
Many parents experience this sooner than they expected, when their toddler or preschooler comes into contact with a pregnant friend or relative, or when you are going to have your second child.
In this article, we look at general tips about talking to your child about where babies come from, as well as tips for talking to younger and older children specifically.
Remember that what you are going to tell your child now, and how you say it, will probably have a profound impact on their perception of sex and reproduction later on. Make sure that you remain calm, try not to be embarrassed, and make sure that the tone is set. Turn off the TV, for example, and do not answer your cell phone mid-way through the conversation.
Another idea, if you are at a loss about what to say, no matter what age your child is, is to look for age-appropriate books on the subject. That way, you can read a book together, and your child’s questions will flow naturally, making for a less tense experience all round!
Talking to Younger Children about Sex
When it comes to talking to younger children – up to the age of about six – you need to be truthful, without being too graphic. For instance, telling a younger child that the stork brought them will only confuse them later, so that is not a good idea, but at the same time, your child does not need to know the mechanics of sex yet!
If your toddler asks about babies, it is usually enough to tell them that they grew inside you. Try to use the correct words though – say uterus, or womb, instead of tummy, so that your child knows there is a distinction.
If your preschooler asks about where babies come from, you can explain that mommies make babies, but that daddies help. Don’t talk about the mechanics involved; just say that when mommies and daddies love each other, they make babies together.
Usually, an abstract explanation like this is all that your child is looking for, and all that he or she can handle at this age, so don’t go into graphic detail yet.
Talking to Older Children about Sex
As your children get older, usually around the age of eight or nine, there’s a good chance the conversation about where babies come from will come up again. Either your child will have heard something from a friend, or seen something in the media, that may spark the conversation, but what is important is how you handle the conversation. You may want to find out what they know, and what they’ve heard, before you start explaining, by asking them what they think. This gives you a good idea of what they have already learned, and whether their information is correct.
While it is tempting to avoid the embarrassment most of us feel when talking to our children about sex, it is important that you give them accurate information. After all, would you rather your child learned about sex from you, or from somewhere else?
At this age, your child is more able to handle the facts about sex. Start by explaining the biology of reproduction. Cover things like menstruation, fertilization and the act of sex itself. You will also want to cover more abstract ideas, such as the emotion, love and the importance of relationships in sex. Remember that your child’s attitude to sex in the future is going to depend on how you educate them now, so don’t let your own embarrassment, or even your own regrets or sexual hang-ups, cloud your conversation with them.
Again, factual, age-appropriate books about the subject can help immensely when you are explaining sex to your children, no matter what their age.