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Answering a Child’s Questions About Sex: A Parents’ Guide to Educating Young Children on the Facts of Life

Many parents dread the time when their children begin to ask them sexually related questions. It may begin with “Where do babies come from?” and quickly become “what is intercourse?” It is natural for the parent to become nervous during this exchange and inadvertently communicate a negative feeling. With these simple guidelines however, parents can handle these questions in a calm, graceful, and informative way and establish a lasting, honest relationship with their children.

Answer Sex Questions Factually

When a child asks a parent a question about sex, a short, simple answer should be given. Whether the parent provides additional information should be based on the child’s reaction to the parent’s answer. Answers should always be factual and to the point without overloading children with facts they didn’t ask for. This prevents information overload.

Parents should listen carefully to their children’s questions. If, for example, a child asks where he or she came from, make sure the child didn’t just want to know the name of the hospital where his birth occurred. It could be embarrassing for a parent and confusing for the child to launch into a conversation about the birds and the bees.

Communicate Sexual Attitudes

As the child becomes a little older, answers should not be restricted to factual information only. Parents can also begin to communicate their attitudes and values toward sex and relationships. Children need help in coping with their sexual feelings and defining responsible sexual behavior.

Teach Sex With Examples

An easy way to introduce children to the mystery of sex is to arrange for them to witness the birth of a litter of kittens or puppies. This provides the parents with a launching pad for discussions about sex, pregnancy, and birth. When children are over the age of 8, plots of TV programs and song lyrics can be used as the basis for conversations about sex. Ask questions such as “What does the singer find attractive in her mate?” and “What do you think that song is about?”

Overcoming Obstacles

If a parent and child find it difficult to discuss sex related matters, try writing the child a letter about the responsibilities and risks associated with sexual behavior. This is also a good time to state personal values. This can be a helpful tool in really communicating when one or both parties are too uncomfortable to discuss the matter openly.

By taking a well-informed, calm, and factual approach to sex education in the home, parents will help their children develop a healthy and knowledgeable attitude towards sex and human relationships.