Picture this scenario: you’re preparing dinner one evening and your 4-year-old child, who just completed a puzzle with their older sibling, looks up at you and inquires, “Where do babies come from?”Children are naturally inquisitive, but this particular question can be quite challenging to answer. When should parents start discussing with their kids the realities of how babies are born, and what should they disclose? Is it too early to talk about the “birds and the bees”?
Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle this on your own. We’ve consulted some specialists to provide advice on how to handle this delicate and ever-changing dialogue.
How to Talk to Very Young Children
According to child psychologist and founder of Dr. Gummer’s Good Play Guide, Amanda Gummer, adults may find discussing the topic of reproduction more uncomfortable than children. Dr. Gummer suggests that young children tend to prefer straightforward information and focusing on the biological process of reproduction, presented as a scientific topic, is typically enough. For instance, parents can explain that when they love each other, a special cell is created that eventually grows into a baby.
Amodio suggests that it is important to use proper names for body parts right from the beginning of a child’s life. This helps children to develop the language they need to discuss their bodies in a way that is positive and without any sense of shame or confusion. Younger children tend to have more questions about how babies are formed and born, rather than questions about sex specifically. By providing simple, biological answers at this stage, parents can help to reduce any stigma around the topic and prepare their children for future conversations.
How to Talk to School-Aged Children
During the early years of schooling, children tend to be prepared for more elaborated answers. Distinguished professor and head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Christopher Kearney, Ph.D, suggests that parents can use the initial conversation they have with their young children to create a foundation for future discussions.
Dr. Kearney suggests that a comparable strategy can be employed when discussing reproduction with primary school kids, albeit with additional information about the need for two people in most instances. The emphasis should be on the arrival of the baby rather than the cause. Additionally, it is crucial to convey to children that families can have varying structures, including single parents, households with LGBTQ+ parents, and other diverse arrangements.
According to Dr. Gummer, younger children in elementary school can comprehend abstract ideas if they are presented in the context of biology. By doing this, any feelings of shame or awkwardness can be avoided. As children grow older, they may be prepared to learn more about human reproduction, including the involvement of sperm and egg in fertilization and the growth of the fetus.
How to Talk to Adolescents
As kids transition from being younger to tweens and teenagers, parents should initiate more detailed discussions about sex when answering the question of “how babies are born”. As children grow older, they’ll start to ask more questions about sex, sexual acts, and sexuality. According to Amodio, discussing sexuality openly and honestly is crucial since it’s a natural part of human development that should not be a source of shame. It’s okay to seek knowledge about sexuality.
According to research, having age-appropriate and positive conversations about sex with teenagers can help them make better decisions. Dr. Kearney also agrees and suggests that as children grow older, they have a better grasp of the physical aspects of reproduction. Therefore, it is crucial to give children the knowledge and vocabulary to ask difficult questions. Amodio emphasizes the significance of teaching young children factual information about their bodies, including the use of accurate terminology.
Talking With Adopted Children
Understanding how adopted babies come into a family can be challenging, particularly for young children. It can be confusing to comprehend how a baby can be born without the mother being pregnant. However, honesty is crucial when it comes to explaining the situation to children. According to Dr. Kearney, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell children that some parents opt to give their baby up for adoption, allowing another family to care for the child. It’s also important to clarify that adopted children are born just like any other child, through the same biological process. Both the birth parents and the adoptive parents play an essential role in the child’s story of origin. As Amodio notes, adopted children are a product of childbirth, and their origins involve all of the people who played a part in their birth and adoption.
What Not to Say When Kids Ask Where Babies Come From
As children grow up, it is crucial for parents to maintain transparency and honesty with them. Amodio recommends relying on facts rather than fabrications, and being truthful about scenarios instead of sugar-coating them. This way, children will not be afraid or uncertain, as knowledge can eliminate such feelings. It is also important to answer questions straightforwardly, providing exact answers to what is asked. As for the stork story, it might be wise for parents to retire this outdated fable as it can be perplexing for children who are trying to understand the complexities of the world. Dr. Gummer suggests that relying on this tale to explain reproduction might not be the best approach.
At the end of the day, it is crucial to permit children to initiate the dialogue and ask the questions themselves. Amodio suggests that “allowing the child to steer the conversation enables them to obtain the information they are searching for in a manner that is understandable and not overwhelming.” Although answering questions like “where do babies come from?” may seem challenging, it is essential to be honest and use clear language to avoid misunderstandings, discomfort, and embarrassment. By providing our children with the ability to communicate and control their bodies, they learn that it is safe to inquire about things that will be truthfully answered.