“Where Do Babies Come from, Mommy?”
Your four or five year old child has just asked you this question. Or maybe s/he doesn’t ask, but you have reason to believe that the question has crossed his/her mind nonetheless. What’s your best response?
If your child is asking you this question, then your best response, at least initially, is to give a brief overview answer at this age (four or five years old). For many young children, the specific details of sexual intercourse are not sought. For example, you may say that bodies are wondrous things and that our bodies can create new people by a process involving a man and a woman who come together in love. Then, ask your child if s/he has any questions about what you have just explained. If your child seeks more precise information, provide the level of information that your child seeks (using age-appropriate terminology). For example, if your child asks, as a follow-up question, how men and women create new people, you can explain that the process begins with something called “sexual intercourse” and ends with the miracle of birth. You can further explain, without graphic detail, what sexual intercourse, pregnancy, labor, and birth are. Once you have addressed any follow-up questions s/he has, proceed by asking your child what prompts his/her question. Did s/he just visit a farm and watch piglets being born? Did one of his/her classmates tell or show him/her something of a sexual nature? Did something flash across the television screen that prompted his/her inquiry?
If your child is not asking you this initial question, but you have reason to believe that the question has crossed his/her mind nonetheless, then you should prompt the discussion by asking questions of your own. In a private moment, ask your child what is on his/her mind. Let your child know what you have observed in his/her behaviors that makes you think that s/he may be spending time thinking through one or more important topics. If your child discloses his/her questions, respond to his/her questions as noted above. If your child does not open up and ask you the questions s/he is pondering, then do not force the issue. Instead, simply state that you are available for him/her and will always answer any questions s/he may have. Encourage him/her to feel comfortable speaking with you about whatever is on his/her mind, and then change the subject to some light and easy topic. When your child is ready thereafter, s/he will come to you.
Never address sexual intercourse as a dirty, sinful, or shameful act. Never address sexual intercourse as a recreational, no-strings-attached act. Always communicate that sexual intercourse should be a healthy human behavior between two loving adults.
Never make your child feel it is inappropriate to ask you certain questions. However, it is important for you to let your child know that certain subjects should be discussed in private only.
By following these tips, you can tactfully and successfully handle the birds-and-bees conversation with your four or five year old.
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