questions about sexIt’s a conversation many parents would like to put off as long as possible, but when your children start asking questions about sex, it’s time to start talking.

Many children will begin asking questions at an early age. It’s not uncommon for pre-schoolers to ask where babies come from when their mothers or other women in their lives are pregnant or when their pets have babies.

Those questions coming from three- and four-year-olds can rattle even the most well-meaning parents, but it doesn’t have to. Children at this age are naturally curious and anxious to learn more about the world around them, and there’s no better teacher when it comes to the birds and bees than you.

These tips can help:

Relax. It’s easy to cringe at some of the questions your children may ask, especially if they’re asking you the meaning of a slang word you’d rather they never hear. But if you embrace these opportunities to become their primary source for information now, you’ll be establishing a pattern that can help you instill your values through more difficult years ahead.

Take time if you need it. If you’re caught off-guard with a question, tell your child she’s asked a good question and you’ll need some time to figure out the best way to explain it. Then gather your wits, figure out your approach and don’t delay in getting back to your child.

Keep it simple. One reason parents sometimes are nervous about their children’s questions is because they think they have to explain everything all at once. In these early stages, it’s actually much better for your child (and for you) to answer only the question asked and offer just basic facts using proper terminology. For example, if your three-year-old asks where babies come from, you can simply tell him they come from their mommies’ tummies. If he’s ready for more information, he’ll ask. As your children continue to mature, take more initiative to be sure they understand how it all comes together.
Invite more questions. You need to be approachable in order for your child to rely on you for good information. Encourage your children to ask you anything they like, then take everyday opportunities (such as events in their books or children’s television shows) to reinforce the invitation.

Frame it in values. The first time you explain how babies are made is also the time to begin introducing your values about sex. For example, you can tell your children that this is something mommies and daddies do and that they won’t need to worry about it until they are much older. In subsequent conversations, you can explain how it relates to love, intimacy, caring and respect for themselves and their partners.

Teach privacy. When explaining birds and bees, continue to emphasize that your children’s private parts are private.

Likewise, these conversations are also private, to be discussed in the family and not with other children at daycare or school.
Use good books. Visit a local or online bookstore to find books that talk about sex simply, factually and in a way that’s comfortable for your family, then keep those books on hand for when your children have questions.

Children will learn about sex one way or another. It’s up to you to determine whether they learn it on the school bus or at home. If children grow up learning about sex in a normal, natural way and they get honest answers about it from you, they are much less likely to experiment at an early age. Whether talking about the birds and bees or other adult topics, accurate, honest information helps children become more responsible and make better choices.