Google+ Authentic Parenting: Birds & The Bees: Three Tips for Answering Tricky Questions (Rerun)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Birds & The Bees: Three Tips for Answering Tricky Questions (Rerun)

One afternoon at the post office, while waiting in line, my four year old asked “Mom, how did Bella get into your belly?” Suddenly, every conversation ground to a halt and it felt as if all eyes were turning towards me and my pregnant belly. I’m quite sure all ears were attuned as I answered the question. Lucky for me, as it was my third pregnancy, it wasn’t the first time I was being asked that question so I had a quick and simple answer that was readily accepted. Truthfully, I felt quite relieved that it was just that question again and not like the very first time my two year old happily asked pointing to a cashier “Does he have a penis or a vagina?”

Often called tricky subjects: sexuality, birth, death to name a few can create quite some anxiety for some parents. Many parents that are otherwise confident with their parenting duties become flustered, nervous and otherwise confused as to how best handle such questions.
Helping children develop healthy thoughts and feelings on these subjects is so important; answering any such questions by being calm, honest and consistent can keep you from getting tongue-tied.

No matter how outrageous or inappropriate a question may seem it is important to remember that children are most likely just exercising their natural curiosity. Even if the question pops up in a situation that you do not exactly deem appropriate (i.e questioning a cashiers genitals), staying calm will help both you and your child figure out how to move on. Maybe you will be ready to answer the question in a matter of fact tone or maybe you will need to ask your child to give you some time to think. It is alright to be honest with your child if you need or want additional time to answer the question. Finally discussing with your partner any key pointers for tricky subjects so that your answers are always consistent can ease any tension around the subjects as well.

If you are not comfortable answering a question on the spot:
Instead of using statements that might shame your child like “how dare you ask that?” or “What are you thinking asking such a thing.” Try responding with words that can help you find space but provide reassurance to your child: “I cannot answer that question right now, but I can answer it when we get home. How about we talk about our favorite animals right now?” Do follow up with your child when you reach an appropriate place like home or your car. This last step will help your child not only have the answers to something she wants to know but also builds trust.
If you don’t quite understand what your child is asking:
Try to avoid statements that might upset or confuse your child like “That doesn’t make any sense” Or “Where did you get such a crazy idea.” Instead try to paraphrase their original question “Are you trying to understand what happens to people when they die?” Then follow up with a brief explanation and wait for your child’s lead. Quite possibly a short answer will suffice, if not new questions will surface giving you an opportunity to continue having a dialogue.

If you don’t know enough to answer the question:
Avoid statements that could discourage your child “why would I know that” or “I have not the slightest idea”. Instead, try explaining that you would like to find out more yourself about that very question “I will need to look that up before I can tell you more” or “Can we look this up together sometime?” Allowing your child to know that you need more information not only models lifelong learning it also gives you a great opportunity to learn something together.
That cashier from earlier, just in case you were wondering, answered the question directly to my son, smiling and matter of factly, that she does in fact have a vagina. To my relief, she also told me she was a mom and a grandmother to four equally curious children.

Have you ever been asked a question by your child and not really known how to handle it? What was the question and what did you do?

Peace & Be Well,

Please join me at Positive Parenting Connection on Facebook for daily inspirations, ideas and resources for positive parenting!
Image credit: abpphotos



  1. What did you answer to the first question? "How did Bella got in your belly?"
    It is always handy to have the answers ready ;-)

  2. Karen, I answered that question by saying that women have eggs in their ovaries, deep in their belly, and men have seeds, and then the seed fertilizes the egg and a baby is made. Just like with the birds and lots of other animals. We watch a lot of animal documentaries, so so far that has been sufficient.
    If she would insist (which she hasn't yet) I would say that it requires sex and that involves the penis and the vagina... They generally come to it step by step, so start with the explanation that comes easiest to you.

  3. Timely post! Our 4 year old recently overheard my husband and I making love and had/has lots of questions! I always told myself I would be honest with my children about sex, their bodies, etc. but I admit I was more than a little caught off guard when those questions came!

  4. Momagain@40 - So far our standard answer has been something like this: Papa gave me a special seed that makes babies grow and that is how Bella started to grow inside my belly.
    My five year old now knows that these seeds come out of a mans penis. And that babies come out of vaginas or bellies.
    I try to keep it pretty simple but with anatomically correct terms where applicable.
    {sarah} its true no matter how much we prepare sometimes it is so hard to find an answer!

  5. Awesome tips! My 4yo just asked me last night how babies get in bellies. I told her basically that her dad and I mixed together some special things. She seemed to be satisfied with that for now, but it is great to hear other ideas for when it comes up again. Thank you!


I love comments! Drop me a line