Every year Dr. Anne Colantuoni and I present workshops for Twin Parks Montessori School's parents that address the need to prepare for answering questions children ask. Beginning around 2.5 years and ongoing, children ask questions like, “where do babies come from?”, “why do you pee sitting down?” or “what happens when someone dies?”
Thinking about these questions and how you might answer them requires consideration of them before you are asked. These questions are not difficult for children to ask, they are difficult for parents to answer.
We always want to be a source of truth for our children. This simple statement, if followed, will serve you well for the remainder of your life’s work of raising your child to adulthood.
There are a few key items to remember:
- use the correct nomenclature for all body parts (penis and vagina are the big ones)
- consider the developmental and cognitive age of your child when considering the words you will use when answering
- don’t over talk the answer, keep it simple, if you are not clear your child will ask again • know that you will answer the same question again and you will add more details as your child ages
- keep your cool, if you are sensitive to the issue, your child will sense that and may misinterpret your response
- if you make a mistake, you can revisit the conversation to admit you made a mistake and change or add to your answer
One question that children ask is “what happens when ____ dies?” Parenting partners need to be on the same page with the answer. The answer will depend on the religious and traditions of the family. Most important is not to equate death with being asleep. This is where the cycle of life lessons learned from having pets at home or observing a dead bug in the park come in handy. Teachers at Twin Parks Montessori talk about the cycle of life in our early childhood classrooms. We have classrooms pets like fish, hermit crabs, and frogs.
The other big one is “where do babies come from?” When talking to children 4 years and under, you can answer that “when two people love each other they put their bodies together and a baby grows inside the mother’s womb.” This statement is very matter of fact and delivered without emotion. You are sharing biological information. Of course, be prepared for “How?” Depending on the age of the child you can add something like this, “The penis goes inside the vagina. Sperm from the penis meets an egg inside the mom and a baby grows.”
Of course adopted or otherwise conceived children will have their own story that parenting partners share as soon as the child is verbal. Some parents make a book about the adoption with early pictures of the child and emphasis is place on love and desire to have a child.
Always remember to talk about love and relationships. Parents must help children understand relationships and intimacy when they are young. This will help pre-teens understand that genital contact without love is hollow and not appropriate. I recommend a great book, The Talk: What Your Kids Need to Hear From You About Sex, written by Dr. Sharon Maxwell.
In addition, I recommend this article that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, March 19, 2016. It is titled, "When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?" by Peggy Orenstein. Parents must be the source of truth for children. The questions will get more difficult as the children get older, however, it is aways better to learn from you rather than on the playground or by watching porn.