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Where do babies come from?
The conversation about sex…

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:59 PM

When my mother was thirteen years old, my grandmother handed her an information booklet that came with a packet of sanitary napkins. It addressed all the necessary topics in relation to “becoming a woman”. She instructed her not to read past page ten and astonishingly, my mum obeyed this directive.

I’d love to get a hold of that book and turn straight to page ten. Obviously that’s where the real action kicks in. Nothing like a piece of 1950’s sanitised porn to spice up your family planning conversations.

Now a parent of children who are full of inquisitive questions, my secret hope was that my eldest would absorb sex education, by osmosis from his classmates, and pass it down his sibling line, with minimal intervention from me.

Then again, I remember sniggering with friends over “Where did I come from?” in the school library when I was in primary school. The word penis was pants-wetting hilarious. I recall someone joking about a condom and I laughed along, then snuck off to look up its meaning in the dictionary. “Prophylactic” “latex” and “intercourse” did nothing to aid my understanding of the word.

Perhaps having my eldest receive Chinese Whispers style sex education via his mates at school is not the best course of action.

Failing that option, I expected my husband might pick up the slack, with three boys his captive audience, and I could hang in the back stalls, smiling encouragingly.

No such luck.

Whilst pregnant with my fourth child, my five year old stared at my stomach, gave it a rub and then asked, “How do you get the baby out?”

When I gave a bare bones explanation, vaguely alluding to vaginal birth and c-section options, he pondered the information for a while.

Then he asked, “Oh. But how does the baby get in?”

Oh yeah. Here we go. C’mon, you knew this question was coming. You can’t walk around with a baby in your stomach and not expect to be asked how it got there. You should’ve prepared for this, you moron! Why didn’t you read up on “Where did I come from?”? Even better, why didn’t you memorise it as a kid, in preparation for this day?

“Well. There is a seed. And an egg,” I begin, trying to sound at ease, and without breaking into an unnatural sweat.

Keep It Simple, Stupid, I prompt myself.

“The man has the seed. The woman has the egg. They join together and the baby begins growing.”

Wow, that was truly pathetic. I smile at my five year old, waiting nervously for the next question.

“What’s for dinner?” he asks. Phew. There’s a question I can answer.

Given that abysmal explanation, I decide to undertake more extensive research about addressing the topic matter with children.

A Google search for sex education introduces me to a whole world of pain.  I should’ve known the “s” word only means one thing on the Internet. Plenty of offers of friendly conversations with 18-year-old girls who are fun loving and firm-breasted. Not exactly the information I was after.

Parenting books tell us it shouldn’t be a topic we shy away from. No need to be all uptight about it. Just answer the kids’ questions, as they arise, age-appropriately. Skip making a big deal, building up to a conversation that ends in nervous diatribe about eggs and sperm and birds and bees falling in love, and just relax.

Not always possible when our children save the most intricate questions for the least convenient times, often catching us (and all the people in the supermarket queue) off guard.  

“Why does my willy go hard when I touch it?”

Is this when I throw to the checkout operator and let her answer it?

Dr Phil says “be truthful but abstract” for children under six. Defer the graphic and gory details – don’t “[talk] about sexual penetration because it can scare them.” It scares me too, Dr Phil. Actually “Dr Phil” and the word “penetration” in the same sentence, scares me most.

So, random storks and cabbage patches are not the accepted explanations.

Like Dr Phil, Sex therapist Dr Laura Berman also urges parents to be open and honest. She advises that sex education should be an ongoing and evolving subject, rather than one "big talk". For young children, she suggests:

a) giving them a language they can use for their sexual organs and
b) making sure they don't get negative messages about those organs that can set them up for feeling that sex is going to be "dirty" or "bad".

Teaching them the anatomically correct names for their genitals is all well and good until the not-quite-three-year-old informs his baby sister in the bath, “Boys have penises. Girls have China.”

I can appreciate open, honest, accurate discussions about the human body and sex, while they are young, are a great way to set up easy communication between children and parents. I’m just not very good at it.

Best I get myself to a library and read up on China.

Have you had any tricky questions about sex from your kids? Did you have a “big talk” or just let the information filter in gradually?


#2 squirt081

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:18 PM

My kids aren't old enough yet for those questions but DH and I have always agreed that we would teach our kids about their bodies from the moment they seemed interested.

DD is 23 months and ever since she started pointing to body parts we have told her what they are. First she started to point at my boobs so I told her they were breasts and one day she will have them. She has also pointed at my vagina and her own. I tell her what they are and that all females have them.

Just recently she has pointed at DS (4mths) and I have told her that that is a penis etc. I also told her that boys have them so daddy also has one.

When she asks more questions I will tell her. I dont see the point in hiding the truth. If you make a big fuss of it they will see it as a bad thing and I dont want my kids thinking sex is dirty and bad.

#3 peking homunculus

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:22 PM

I had a talk with my DD when she was 4. She listened to me carefully and then asked if she could do the "penis and venus thing" with her little brother!!

#4 Sancti-mummy

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:30 PM

I was going to be the mother who told her daughter everything and not be the one who just gave the book (as my mum did) or leave her in complete ignorance (as her mother did).

Unfortunately, my daughter is choosing the put her fingers in her ears and sing la-lala-la-la-LA whenever I try.

Still, she has been on a cattle property and seen enough action to get an idea that it takes 2, there isn't always sweet talking involved and it looks painful to birth.

#5 stelley

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:33 PM

When I was pregnant with my 4th I decided to pre-empt The Talk with my older kids (7 & 5 at the time).  So I ask "Do you know how this baby got inside my tummy and how it will come out" DS7 looks horrified.  Blood drains from his face. He says "Jesus put it in there and he will get it out and that is all I need to know for now" then puts his hands over his ears.  
Here endeth the Sex Ed lessons for some time.

#6 HappyWomble

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:38 PM

My mother had the perfect way of handling all difficult questions:

"What/why do you think...?" eg "How do YOU think babies are made?"

That way you find out what the child is ACTUALLY asking, and their answer tells you how much detail you need to go into. It also gives you a precious few moments to get your head togather.

#7 BabyHopeful

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:38 PM

I agree with Squirt.  I just answer honestly but in their terms.  DS1 has asked about babies, but has also seen me with pads and tampons so we've talked about periods too.

I basically keep answering until he stops asking.  I want both my boys to feel like they can ask me (and DH) anything.

#8 jules095

Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:49 PM

My parents didn't tell me a thing. They just left it to my Grade 6 health teacher.

When the time comes, it wont be just the sex talk I give.

Babies come from more places these days, than just mummy & daddy having sex. People seem to forget this, so thank goodness there are more books around these days to explain it, than just the old "Where Do I come From?".

#9 Kylie Orr

Posted 13 June 2011 - 02:04 PM

Good point, jules095. I've heard this book is quite good at addressing the many ways in which babies come into our lives...

jewels1970 - I like your mum's thinking! And she's spot on - sometimes we "overshare" when the child's question was quite basic and only needed a simple answer.

suziej & peking homunculus - love it!

#10 BadCat

Posted 13 June 2011 - 02:07 PM

I was going to be the "just answer the questions calmly as we go along" mum.

Unfortunately the questions didn't come.  They continue not to come.

Eventually DD reached year 6 and the school had Family Planning come in and talk to them.  I asked her if she would llike to know some stuff before the FP session or go in with no idea.  She chose to know some stuff but had no questions.  So I was pretty much forced into the puberty and sex talk all at one go.

I had hoped that DS, two years younger, would start to question because he knew that DD had done the mysterious "sex ed" at school.  No such luck.  I asked him if he would like to know anything about it.   The response was a strangled cry of "NO!" followed by a hundred metre dash to rival Usain Bolt.

Oh well, next year he will be in year 6 and Family Planning will drag him kicking and screaming into enlightenment too.

#11 jules095

Posted 14 June 2011 - 12:40 AM

I haven't heard of that one myself, but was thinking of the Before You Were Born series, which is only relevant to those who have use IVF or a donor to conceive their child/ren.

#12 ~flaxen~

Posted 14 June 2011 - 02:38 PM

A gradual filter of information here. As questions are asked they get answered. If the answer is not to my 6 yr old's satisfaction, he will keep asking questions until his curiosity is satisfied. My 4 yr old is obsessed with his 4 wk old baby cousin so we've had a few questions lately.

They know they have a penis and testicles, and girls have a vulva and vagina. They know only ladies can grow babies because they have a uterus, and that the vagina is stretchy and the baby gets pushed out of there when it's ready to be born and that it's hard work! Sometimes the baby needs to be cut out of a ladies tummy. I've told them a baby is made up of a little bit of mummy and a little bit of daddy, if they ask further I will tell them about the sperm and the egg, but like Dr Phil, I don't think they need to know about the actual act of sex yet.

The 4yr old has had lots of questions about breastfeeding. He tells everone we meet about how it works...hilarious  biggrin.gif

#13 smithsholidayroad

Posted 14 June 2011 - 02:51 PM

This reminds me of my health teacher at parent interviews saying I was mature as I never giggled over the word penis and vagina to which my Dad responded with giggling!

Being 25w pregnant I am waiting for the kids to ask but they just seem happy that the doctor put the baby in there! ( after having scans and bloods with the kids present )


#14 Adylou

Posted 14 June 2011 - 05:31 PM

I heard somewhere once that if they are old enough to aske the question they are old enough to know the answer.  My son is 10 and so far this has worked for us.  Lately there have been a lot more questions as I am pregnant

Edited by Adylou, 14 June 2011 - 05:40 PM.

#15 mokeydoke

Posted 14 June 2011 - 05:43 PM

I'm not ready yet, as I discovered when I was asked last week and I vaguely responded 'I'll tell you later' unsure.gif I know my kids though and they aren't mature enough to keep the information a little bit to themselves, and I don't want to be partially responsible for kindergarten gossip either.

#16 wenbart

Posted 14 June 2011 - 05:46 PM

My Mum hand me the book and left it at that! I hopefully won't do that with my kids! They are still a bit young at the moment and the plan is to answer as the questions come along!

But, as a teacher that has had to do sex ed at school with 15/16 year old boys, it is a serious eye opener how much they DON'T know! They are all macho and 'rude', but when it comes down to the nitty gritty they know very, very little, especially about female bodies/cycles/how it all works! They were actually really interested once we got past the bravado!

If figure, if I can handle a classroom full of teenage boys, my kids should be a breeze - right? original.gif

#17 Leggy

Posted 15 June 2011 - 03:48 PM

3-yr-old DD has been asking some interesting questions of late. I can see that the logical next one is, "How do you get a baby in your tummy?" Yes, if they're old enough to ask they're old enough to get some kind of answer, but I'm still trying to figure out just how much detail we're going to go for...maybe I'll just go with "special cuddles" for now...

#18 Guest_holy_j_*

Posted 15 June 2011 - 04:04 PM

I hate this topic.

My nearly 8 year old has known since he was 3 nearly 4 when he found his birth pictures, (the full deal) so i told him in simple terms. He understood and was fine with it. I don't think he gets sex fully and plenty of time for that. I don't like the trend among his friend to describe everything as 'gay'- so I asked him if he knew what that meant...and he did (both meanings), and he knows what a lesbian is..so i guess sexual things are starting to come up within his circle of friends.  

My nearly 6 year old daughter and I had a discussion about this the other day where babies come from. I explained the process in special cuddle terms, and how the baby grows and comes out. She knows it hurts to ahve a baby, because she was here when i was in labour with their younger brother.

She started bawling her eyes out and said she never wants to have a baby, and she never wants to have a boyfriend...I asked her why she was crying, and she said because I don't want to get my tummy cut open..I said sweetie most ladies have babies from their girl bits...she said I KNOW, and I don't want to do that either, I remember how much it hurt you when you were having Amir.

Guess she's going to adopt then? biggrin.gif I am nowhere ready to tell her about sex just yet.

#19 mamfa

Posted 21 June 2011 - 03:17 PM

I've spent the day on google. Looking for a ebook for my 8yr old.

In my search, I found out that they should know the basics by preschool (4 years old) and should know most things by 9 years old. Including body part names, female cycles( some girls can start from 8 years old) how babies are made and how they come out.

I think I'm a little behind.

I just asked my 4 year old how she though babies came out and she answered with pointing to her belly button sad.gif . So we got out the mirror and had a look around. She was very fascinated and has spent the best part of an hour exploring it all down there.

Now I'm waiting for my 8 year old to come home and see how much I need to teach her...

I'm wondering if I should let my 6 year old boy hear it or leave him for a different version?

#20 Wicked Witch!!!

Posted 21 June 2011 - 03:41 PM

QUOTE (stelley @ 13/06/2011, 01:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When I was pregnant with my 4th I decided to pre-empt The Talk with my older kids (7 & 5 at the time).  So I ask "Do you know how this baby got inside my tummy and how it will come out" DS7 looks horrified.  Blood drains from his face. He says "Jesus put it in there and he will get it out and that is all I need to know for now" then puts his hands over his ears.  
Here endeth the Sex Ed lessons for some time.

That's classic!!!!!!!!!

QUOTE (jewels1970 @ 13/06/2011, 01:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My mother had the perfect way of handling all difficult questions:

"What/why do you think...?" eg "How do YOU think babies are made?"

That way you find out what the child is ACTUALLY asking, and their answer tells you how much detail you need to go into. It also gives you a precious few moments to get your head togather.


#21 katykins

Posted 21 June 2011 - 03:56 PM

I must say that my mum's approach seemed to work quite well. When she was pregnant with me she asked my sister (then almost 3) how she thought the baby would come out. The reply was "though your belly button?". No. Then, "Out your finger tips?" Mum then explained to her, with the response "That sounds very painful mummy".

We grew up though with a picture book on the human body, and it covered everything, from birth to puberty. I can still remember one lovely illustration of a lady giving birth and the baby smiling as it was crowning. I think our grandmothers were a bit disturbed by the book, but we knew how it worked. In saying all this though, mum is a doctor, so we would have found out about it anyway.

Much better than her grandmothers approach though- she told my mum's aunty the bare basics when she hit puberty, and then when my grandma hit puberty she was told to ask her older sister!

#22 Haylie

Posted 21 June 2011 - 04:02 PM

It pays to clarify what the child is asking.  My friend's dd (7ish) aksed the question "where did I come from".  Said friend gave a great explanation with the basics of sex, birth etc.  

Her DD said yeah ok, but where did I come from.  Kylie is from Sydney, where am I from?

#23 Sancti-mummy

Posted 23 June 2011 - 09:08 PM

The above reminds me of my SIL - she was laughing about a joke, her (at the time 9yo) son asked what was so funny.  She told him - he didn't get it - she gave him the information required to get it (which involved an overview of where babies come from) BUT he still didn't get it!!

#24 clubbyman

Posted 02 August 2011 - 11:33 AM

Children nowadays are smart,but of course it doesn't mean that they don't need the 'parents' guidance.

Keeping things simple is the best way to answer their questions! Children has a lot of questions on their mind and believe me,they won't get away with it,unless they've got satisfied!

Edited by Therese, 11 August 2011 - 02:35 PM.

#25 Nanaimo Girl

Posted 02 August 2011 - 11:41 AM

QUOTE (suziej @ 13/06/2011, 02:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I was going to be the mother who told her daughter everything and not be the one who just gave the book (as my mum did) or leave her in complete ignorance (as her mother did).

Unfortunately, my daughter is choosing the put her fingers in her ears and sing la-lala-la-la-LA whenever I try.

My DD11 does the exact same thing. She puts her hands over her ears and chants " I don't want to hear it".

She has done this since she was very little. I'm thinking I may have to get a cd made up and play it while she's sleeping lol.

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