Many parents dread the day when a child is old enough to ask where babies come from. The answers can range dramatically, from biological to silly catch phrases and song lyrics. Here are 5 answers that may help:
1) The Biological Approach
The biological answer can vary as can the corresponding methods of explaining to a child where babies come from. Some people get diagrams. There are stories where some kids have been traumatized by a big book full of diagrams and pictures of things that a child was not ready to see yet. The older the child is when the question is asked, the better this approach may work. However, the younger the child, the less likely the child is to understand or grasp the concepts being conveyed. Remember, there is a huge difference between understanding and repeating what has been told to a child. The biological approach deals with sex as well and at the very least, prepares a child for discussions about sex and sexuality.
2) The Semi-Biological Approach
This approach works best for a child who is a little older, but not old enough to discuss sex. This approach takes into account the fact that a child may be too young to discuss or inquire about sex and that a child may still be in an innocent phase. This approach is also a good approach to take when the question is tainted by a friend or playmate who is either asking such questions or repeating random information he or she has picked up somewhere. The basic premise of the semi-biological approach is to state that there are males and females and that they are different and explain how. The child can then be told that women have babies and that they are in the belly, that it takes about 9 months for a baby to grow and for a women to give birth, etc. The semi-biological approach is designed to give information yet evade the details about how a woman gets pregnant. This is accomplished by giving out a great deal of information about what happens after the woman gets pregnant, overloading the child with information and if executed correctly, leading the child to believe he or she knows where babies come from. It is a bait and switch of sorts.
3) Avoidance/Postponing the Inevitable
This method is arguably the worse of them all. Basically, it entails avoiding the question posed by a child altogether. The other approach is to tell the child that you will explain it to him or her. It is never a good idea to allow an inquisitive child to go unguided into this area as there will always be some adult or child in his or her life willing to give an answer. It is better to take control of the question and this learning opportunity, irrespective of how young the child is. Doing so sets a precedent and is often the start of important communication between a child and his or her parents in this area. It is always good to let a child know that he or she can ask these questions of a parent without penalty or ridicule. The last thing a parent wants to do in this situation is leave a child to his or her own devices or playmates when discussing where babies come from.
4) Random Song lyrics and Loose Concepts
This approach follows the avoidance approach very closely. It is actually the method many people use, not because it is a good method, but because it has been repeated for years. They tell children half stories about all sorts of things including swallowing seeds and the birds and bees. The problem with this method is, it confuses children more. The biggest reason for the confusion comes from the method in which these loose concepts are told. They are left dangling, with no connection and no story to tie them together. Because of this, children are forced to either make up the missing pieces or even worse, to ask their friends and playmates. For this reason, this method is not as effective and can actually lead to the introduction and spread of misinformation.
5) Birds, Bees, Babies: The Santa Claus Approach
Disclaimer: I wrote a book about the Birds and the Bees called Birds, Bees, Babies. My personal bias aside, this approach is a good one for situations in which a child is too young to understand biological concepts and in which a child wants to avoid topics concerning sex, sexuality and other sensitive concepts. This approach is best referred to as the Santa Claus approach because it is exactly what many families do around Christmas, they tell a child that a big fat man is going to come down a chimney and bring gifts. This is not lying to a child, it is a way of teaching concepts and is very entertaining for the child if done right. It is that premise which was behind the writing of Birds, Bees, Babies. There were so many loose concepts being put forth that were never connected coherently with an entertaining story. The book follows a young girl who is being taunted by a playmate because she does not know where babies come from. Her father eventually tells her a story about a woman who wanted to have a baby and how a friendly bird heard her talking and convinces the Birds and Bees to made the baby. There is even a stork. The Santa Claus method is effective on young children because it gives them an answer and gives them closure. Sometimes a non biological approach will help a parent postpone the discussion of complex and sensitive topics.
Whatever approach you take, GOOD LUCK!!