Where Do Babies Come From? Tips for an Easy Explanation.

This just in:  Preschoolers are curious.  There is no end to their questions and, in general, they give you very little warning before asking those ever so slightly tricky questions.

 

Preschoolers are little thought machines…and they need answers.

 

I received three almost identical emails just this week (from three different parents of three very curious preschoolers) with desperate pleas for the “right” answer to following head scratcher:

 

HOW do babies get inside the mommy’s tummy?

 

(For the record, there is no “right” answer, but there are some very incorrect answers. Remain within your comfort zone at all times, unless “the stork” is your comfort zone.)

 

Raise your hand if you’re looking forward to having a sex education lesson with your four year old.  No hands in the air?  I’m not surprised.

 

While preschoolers know nothing of the actual baby making process, they are truly just wondering if it’s akin to planting an apple tree, we know too much.  Our knowledge of the human body and what it takes to actually create a baby ignites panic the moment a small voice asks an innocent question.

 

Take a deep breath…this one is easier than you think.

 

Stay calm and take a moment:  The question is not intended to freak you out.  Preschoolers have very active imaginations and sometimes they seek facts to make sure they are getting the story straight.  That said, when faced with a question that you are not prepared to answer, it’s always ok to take a moment.  Say something like, “Hmmm.  I think I need a few minutes to think about the best way to explain that to you so that you will understand.”  Take a few deep breaths, and then move forward.  Long silences cause suspicion.  Gather your thoughts and always stick with the basics.

 

Ask a question:  Sometimes we make the mistake of jumping in with a complicated answer, when really our children are asking simple questions.  Ask a question of your child first to gauge where he is with the topic.  A simple, “what do you think?” will let you know where to begin.  It’s always best to let the child lead with difficult topics.  This ensures that you will answer according to your child’s needs and understanding of the topic.

 

Use correct terminology:  Are you still afraid to say “vagina” in front of your daughter?  Don’t be.  It’s just a body part, after all.  Sometimes, in a panic, parents start referencing seeds, storks, and magic when kids ask about babies.  This is all very confusing, and will likely lead to more complicated questions as they struggle to make sense of the answer (how on earth does the stork find babies that look just like the family?).  The baby grows inside a womb, not the belly.  Doctors and nurses help the baby out when the baby is grown.  If they want specifics, the baby either comes out through the vagina or through an incision made below the belly.  Remember; only answer what they ask.  Some are satisfied with less, while others seek more.

 

Be honest but brief:  At this age, this topic does not require a long explanation.  Preschool kids are looking for a few simple facts to make sense of a confusing topic.  Keep it causal, but honest.  If you appear uncomfortable, your child might feel like there is something shameful or bad about the topic.  A straightforward approach is always best.

 

Create a timeline:  Often a simple storyline helps kids make sense of complicated topics.  Try some variation of the following:  “First a mommy and daddy fall in love and get married. Then the mommy and daddy make a baby.  The baby grows in the womb inside of the mommy.  When the baby is big enough, she comes out.”  A story with a beginning, middle, and end is easy to follow and remember.  Also, it simplifies the process when your child incorporates it into her play…and play is always the best way to process information!

 

Follow up questions to expect:  First of all, expect to have this conversation over and over and over again.  Second, there will be follow up questions at some point.

  • What is the baby doing?  Growing, kicking, sucking her thumb, and sleeping.
  • Can I grow a baby?  Your body is not grown enough to grow your own baby yet.  But you can always pretend.
  • How does the baby get out?  See correct terminology above.
  • Can two moms or two dads have a baby?  It takes a man and a woman to make a baby, but two dads or two moms can raise a baby once the baby is born.

 

 

 

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About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and the forthcoming "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)