Updated: Jun 29, 2021
FIELDING THE OL' WHERE-DO-BABIES-COME-FROM QUERY
"My 5-year-old son constantly asks me how you get a baby, and I have no idea what to say. Where do I begin?"
Determining how to respond to child inquiries about sex, and the appropriate age at which to have this conversation, can be overwhelming for parents. However, it is important to remember that these conversations may be awkward for you, but your child does not yet know that society thinks this topic is uncomfortable.
There is nothing taboo about being the person to teach your child the right information about sex. In today's digital age, if you don't answer his questions, he will find a way to access the information, and it may not be in the age-appropriate, dignified way that you as his parent want it to be. First, clarify what your child is asking. Perhaps a classmate of his was talking about his parents "getting" a baby via adoption, and your child simply wants information on what this means. It also helps to ask your child how he thinks you get a baby. Typically, young children will have an elaborate thought process about this, and it will help you see where your child stands and what information you may need to add or correct.
If your child is truly asking the "where do babies come from" question, be casual and straightforward and make the process into a story. It is best to use scientific terms for body parts to avoid confusion and to help your child gain comfort with talking to you about his body and sex. For example, telling a 5-year-old that a baby comes from mommy's tummy may be confusing, as tummies are for food. A baby comes from an egg that mommy's body makes and sperm that daddy's body makes and it grows inside mommy's uterus, which looks like it is in mommy's tummy. The baby starts out really tiny and then it grows inside mommy's uterus, which makes mommy's tummy look big, and it comes out when it is ready. Most children do not need more detail than this, and they will be satisfied that mom or dad gave them a "real" answer.
As children grow, it is important to check in with them about their bodies and their thoughts about sex, and to add more information as needed. The more straightforward you are when talking to your kids about their bodies, the more comfortable they will be talking to you and knowing they will keep getting accurate and real information, regardless of the topic.
Juli Hindsley, owner of Children's Counseling Center of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, has master's degrees in applied developmental psychology and clinical mental health counseling and a graduate certificate in child and adolescent development. She has worked as a therapist in New Orleans and in the Tampa Bay area, and specializes in anxiety and depression in children and teens as well as families dealing with divorce. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.