I dreaded that question – and still do. We’re not quite there with explanations yet. My children, who are ten and eight, still don’t know the whole truth, though we’re edging ever closer to deadline day.
I often wonder what’s right to tell a child about pregnancy. How can we help them get to grips with the idea of a baby growing in someone’s tummy? They’re inquisitive little things, and sharper than they look. Should you avoid their questions? Do you run the risk of your five year old pointing at a heavily pregnant woman in the supermarket and asking loudly why she’s so fat?
Is There a Right Time?
Honestly? I don’t know. I suppose there’s no right time, that it varies from family to family. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking your child will breeze through life and enter their teenage years blissfully unaware of the facts of life. They pick up a lot of information along the way and personally, I don’t believe it’s wise to let other children fill them in. It’s a delicate subject and frankly, you don’t want to put them off for life!
Stay as Close to the Truth as Possible
I believe in a gentle approach. Answer questions as lightly as possible. If in doubt, I throw in a few white lies. Try and stick closely to the truth, without taking away that delightful innocence that children have for such a short time.
I remember one occasion when my little girl was four. She arrived home from school, horrified because her best friend, Ruby, had told her that babies come out of bums. Ruby’s aunty was pregnant at the time so she’d asked her mummy how the baby was going to come out.
Ruby’s mum told her that babies come out of a lady’s vagina. My daughter got confused, and by the time she arrived home, she thought babies were pooed out. Oh dear.
I had a bit of an advantage here because I’d had two C-sections, so I calmly explained that she had been lifted out of my tummy and showed her the scar. I explained that some babies get stuck inside a tummy, so have to be removed by a doctor, and I reassured her that it doesn’t hurt because of an injection. Obviously I had to put her straight on the bum story and explain that most babies do come out of vaginas. Luckily at age four she accepted it and no more questions were asked… for a few weeks at least!
Or Lie… If Needs Be
After a while she asked me how the baby got into Ruby’s aunty’s tummy. Ah. I wasn’t prepared for this one yet! I have to admit, I made up a story about seeds being planted in mummy’s tummy by daddy. OK, I know. ‘Stick as close to the truth as you can’, I said… and that’s what I did. Sort of. Of course, then she asked how the seeds get planted in a tummy.
Confession time – here’s where I blatantly lied. I said we went to a seed shop and chose a ‘Millie’ seed because I wanted a girl. Daddy planted it in my tummy with a special kiss and it grew. She totally bought it, as did my son. And ever since, my kids have continued to grow up very nicely, thank you, seed story firmly planted in their minds.
Fast forward a few years. They’re still innocent but questions are surfacing. Girls tend to develop faster than boys, so we need to start to explain the good old facts of life to them a bit sooner. Of course, if you’re pregnant, the question of explaining new siblings arises naturally. If you haven’t broached the subject of pregnancy yet, then now’s the time.
Next year, my daughter will go on her first school trip. She’ll be a little over nine, and I think that’s a good age to explain to her how her body will start to change as she grows up. I don’t want her witnessing a girl getting her period while on a school trip and for her to be traumatised by the experience. Neither do I want her sitting up late at night hearing stories from other kids. This happened in my son’s class – a child with older siblings told them all about periods and sex before they had had it explained properly. As expected, the children were confused, with one saying to his mum, “I feel sorry for Daddy – doesn’t sound very nice what he has to do to you”!
Time for ‘The Talk’
I’ve decided I’ll ask her what she thinks will happen to her body as she turns into a woman. I’m hoping to explain in fairly basic terms, without the sex bit. I’ll focus on periods and ‘boobies’ (as she calls them), why these changes happen, and what she needs to do. I think I’ll save the topic of sex for another year, when she’s approaching 11.
When it comes to my son however, I’m leaving it to Dad. Even if you think it’s sexist, I believe in man-to-man chats (and why should I have to do all the explaining?!). However my husband is very basic when it comes to description. It’s not his fault – he comes from a generation where these things weren’t discussed as openly, and had someone imparted their own advice on the subject, then he might know how to do it better. I will help out if needed of course. There’s often still not enough support out there for new dads, so the more we can talk about this together, the better.
Help Is at Hand
My son still believes in Mickey Mouse and Father Christmas. I’m slightly concerned he’ll be scarred for life after ‘the talk’ – especially when he finds out what Mickey and Minnie get up to! Still, it’s not too far away as he’s only one year away from year 6 when a teacher will talk to the class about sex and puberty. I’d rather him hear it from us first.
If you’re a bit shy about answering your kids’ questions, I’ve been recommended a couple of books that can help them to understand. For girls, there’s What’s Happening to Me? by Susan Meredith, and boys can benefit from the book of the same name by Alex Frith and Nancy Leschnikoff.
From now on I’ve decided that I’ll answer all their questions properly and stop fibbing about seed packets. I’m no expert, but I believe that children on the cusp of secondary school should be armed with the facts of life. If your children aren’t at that stage yet, perhaps stick as close to the truth with some of those white lies. Seeds and seed packets haven’t done any harm in our house! There’s time to tell the full story when you feel they’re good and ready.
- Stick as close to the truth as possible
- Fib if need be – especially to very young children
- Talk openly to your kids as they approach secondary school – otherwise they’ll get their information elsewhere
- Buy resources such as books to help them understand
- Tell the truth from thereon in!