Curiosity might have killed the cat - but it continues to fuel the imagination of children everywhere. Parents are all too familiar with this quest for truth, often in the form of frequent and persistent questioning. But who can blame children for asking? Every day, they’re learning something new about the world around them. Parents are responsible for ensuring that their children have the knowledge and resources required to successfully navigate in today’s challenging world, even if that knowledge comes from uncomfortable conversations. Although unfortunate, it’s not surprising that parents often have difficulty discussing complex topics such as conception, pregnancy, and childbirth with their curious children. Fortunately, there are several ways to approach these important conversations that will leave both parents and children feeling satisfied.
Be honest and accurate. Answer your child’s questions honestly, using the simplest but most accurate terms possible. Sugarcoating your answers with inaccurate terms and anatomically misleading explanations will not benefit you or your child and can leave them feeling more confused than before. For example, parents should tell their curious children that their sibling-to-be is growing in the mother’s womb, not her “tummy,” and that when the time is right, the baby will squeeze from the uterus through the cervix and the vagina. By establishing this honesty at an early age, your child will trust you to be a trustworthy and approachable source of information, especially when it comes to sensitive topics.
It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Unlike adults, young kids don’t automatically feel uneasy when discussing reproductive topics. To them, reproduction and pregnancy are not inherently sexual or different from other subjects they may ask their parents about. That’s why it’s so important for parents to contain their shock or embarrassment when faced with an unexpected or sensitive question. These topics are a natural part of life and shouldn’t be considered taboo. To reduce some of the pressure associated with answering uncomfortable questions, parents should prepare their answers ahead of time.
Use educational materials. For many parents, reading to their children is an enjoyable bonding activity that also provides intellectual stimulation. That’s why educational books about conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, are a great resource for tackling topics that can be hard to explain. Illustrations are a helpful tool for children who are learning new concepts, as well as the parents who are teaching them.
Never ignore your child’s questions. Even worse than using incorrect terminology to explain sensitive topics, is ignoring a child’s question entirely. If you don’t have an immediate answer or would prefer a more private environment for discussion, let your child know that their question was heard and will be answered soon. If you don’t keep your promise, you might jeopardize trust and transparency between you and your child. Their curiosity won’t just go away and they will eventually find other ways to get answers.
Although honesty, comfort, and education should be top of mind when it comes to the talk, parents should use their best discretion when it comes to their child’s maturity. It’s never too early to start teaching your child about natural life processes, but the younger the child, the less detail they need. If they want more information, they will let you know. For children, knowledge is power, and as a parent, it's your duty to ensure that they’re receiving the most accurate information possible for a healthy understanding of the world around them.
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