Q: “My daughter asked me, ‘Where did I come from?’ I told her she came from mommy’s belly, but then she said ‘How mommy? Did it hurt?’ What’s the best way to address questions like these?”
A: You may feel envious of the parents from previous generations who told their children “The stork brought your little brother,” but giving this kind of misinformation does a disservice to children. Parents are their child’s first teacher, and the more kids can talk to you, the more they’ll trust you throughout their childhood and beyond.
Here are some tips for this mother that are also applicable to other tough questions children ask.
- Start off by asking your child what they know, what they’ve heard, and why they’re interested. Your child may have been confused by the idea that a baby comes from mom’s belly since she can’t figure out how the food that goes into the stomach can be in the same place as the baby. In this case you could simply say, “Oh, there’s a special place in a women’s body that’s called a uterus or a womb, and babies are safe and cozy there as they grow.”
- Use correct words. Because of our own embarrassment, we may avoid words like breasts or penis, and instead use words that are silly or were passed down to us from our parents. Since children learn correct names for elbows, knees, and other body parts, it makes sense they would learn the correct parts of the body related to reproduction and sexual pleasure.
- Keep it simple. “You began to grow in my uterus after a seed from mommy and a sperm from daddy (or from the sperm bank) joined together.” You can talk about planting seeds in the garden and watching the flowers and pumpkins grow. If your curious child wants to know more then you’ve planned, get some help from a friend or a book. If you’re not sure what you want to say about the “Special kind of hugs that are for adults only,” Robie Harris has a great series of books. The one for four year olds is called, It’s NOT the Stork!
When you’re thoughtful about children’s questions, your attitude encourages their curiosity and trust.
Nurse Rona is the host of Childhood Matters radio show, a nurse for 44 years, a temperament specialist, parent educator, and mother of four. To hear previous shows, go to www.childhoodmatters.org, and tune in Sundays 7-8AM on 98.1 KISSFM. She is also available to do individual temperament consultations and workshops.