Do you ever have one of those days where things are going swimmingly? You’ve got the school routine down, no one has a cold and you’re silently congratulating yourself for your excellent parenting skills.
And then your child throws you a curve ball that you were completely unprepared for. Your 5-year-old daughter wants to know how babies are made.
This is how it happened to me:
Sophie: “Mommy, does every girl have a baby when she grows up?”
Me: “Well, they can if they want to, but some people don’t want to and that’s OK.”
Sophie: “Oh. Well, I want to grow a baby, so when I grow up, do I just believe, and then I’ll have a baby?”
I think I literally gulped.
Me: “Uh…well…you have to make a baby…with someone you love.”
Sophie: “How do you do that? How did you and daddy make us into babies?”
And here is where I totally copped out as a parent. I mumbled a combination of, “It’s complicated,” and “Let me think about how to explain it,” and “I’ll tell you later.”
Over a month went by, and I still hadn’t revisited the topic. I wasn’t sure how to approach the topic, so instead I bypassed it by not bringing it up. But I knew that wasn’t the responsible choice. I gave myself a stern lecture, reminding myself that it’s my job as a parent to provide an open and safe environment for my kids to ask those big life questions—even when I’d rather stick my head in the sand.
I did some research and prepped for The Big Talk. I mentally rehearsed what I would say and when I would say it. Then one day I threw caution to the wind and decided to just dive in during our regular morning routine. Because I’m cool, I’m hip and it’s no big deal. Right?
Working overtime to appear calm and collected, I told my kids, “I want to explain to you how babies are made because you have been asking some questions about it.”
They looked at me and nodded. I went on, “The mommy has very small eggs that are already in her body. The daddy has a seed that joins the egg. When that happens, a baby starts to grow in a part of the mother’s tummy called the uterus.”
This simple, but truthful, explanation left them completely satisfied. They didn’t have any questions, but I’m mentally rehearsing how I might answer them in the future, using some of these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Keep your answers simple but accurate: Your young child doesn’t need to know the details of intercourse, but it’s still important to stick with correct terminology like “penis,” “vagina,” and “genitals,” should those questions come up.
- Normalize your child’s curiosity: Every child has questions about sex. Reassure them that it’s normal to be curious.
- Be willing to answer questions: Ask your child what questions she has. If she doesn’t have any, let her know that whenever she does, she can always ask mom, dad or a trusted caregiver.
- Try to avoid laughing or giggling: Some questions might be adorable or truly funny, but laughing might send the message that your child should feel embarrassed or ashamed about sexuality.
- Focus on privacy and appropriate behavior: Sexuality isn’t shameful, but there’s a right time and place to have those discussions. Let your child know what the boundaries are.
- Use the discussion as an opportunity to review personal safety: Make sure your young child understands that no one should touch another’s genitals unless she is being examined by a nurse or doctor, or being washed or wiped, briefly, by a parent or caregiver. Be clear that
- she should never keep a secret about her body no matter what anybody says.
Talking about sex with your kids isn’t easy. Prepare yourself so that you’ll be ready when the moment arises. You’ll open a gateway for important talks in the future. And you’ll teach your children that they can trust you to tell it like it is.
If you don’t answer the big life questions, who will?