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Answering Questions About Sex

Answering kids' questions about sex is a responsibility that many parents dread. Moms and dads often feel awkward when it comes to talking about puberty and where babies come from.

But the subject shouldn't be avoided. Parents can help kids develop healthy feelings about sex if they answer questions in an age-appropriate way.

When Young Kids Ask Where Babies Come From

Depending on the child's age, you can say that the baby grows from an egg in the mommy's womb, pointing to your stomach. There is no need to explain the act of lovemaking because very young kids will not understand the concept.

However, you can say that when a man and a woman love each other, they like to be close to one another. Tell them that the man's sperm joins the woman's egg and then the baby begins to grow. Many kids under the age of 6 will accept this answer. Age-appropriate books on the subject are also helpful. Answer the question in a straightforward manner, and you will probably find that your child is satisfied with just a little information at a time.

As kids get older, you can share more specifics.

How to Talk to Kids About the "Birds and Bees"

Learning about sex should not be in one “big talk.” It should be more of a process over time, as kids learn what they need to know. Answer questions as they come up so that kids' natural curiosity is satisfied as they mature.

If your child doesn't ask questions about sex, don't just ignore the subject. Look for opportunities, like when friends or family have a baby, to discuss sex. Parents often have trouble finding the right words, but many excellent books are available to help.

What About Sex Education in School?

Parents should begin the sex education process long before kids hear about it in school. The introduction of formal sex-ed in the classroom, and what teachers cover, varies. Many schools start it in the fifth or sixth grade, but some don't offer it at all. Topics addressed can include anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy. You may want to ask about your school's curriculum so you can assess it yourself.

Children, when learning about sexual issues in school or outside of school, are likely to have many questions. Parents should be open to continuing the talks and answering questions at home. This is especially true if you want your kids to understand sexuality within the context of your family's values.

Body changes and sexual issues are an important part of human development. If you have questions about how to talk with your child about them, ask your doctor for suggestions.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: October 2020