do babies come from - Answering questions
Dr. Susan Bartell
How did the baby get in your tummy and how will it come out?
mother of four year old Joshua and two month old Adam, recently
told me this story. "Mommy," asked Joshua "where did Adam come from?"
Linda thought for a couple of minutes about all the parenting articles
she had read that tell us to be honest with our children. Then she
took a deep breath and explained in great detail about the egg and
the sperm, the uterus and the fetus and finally about the baby's
birth. After talking for several minutes, she stopped and waited
for Joshua's response. "Hmmm", said Joshua "I thought that Adam
came from your tummy". Linda's surprise must have been obvious because
Joshua gave her a big hug and said, "it's okay mommy, I remember
all the photos of your big tummy with Adam in it."
funny little story has an important message in it. We should give
our children only the information they really want and can
handle, not what we think they want. This is especially true around
issues of the "birds and the bees" which often come up when there
is a baby on the way or newly arrived. In fact, as was the case
with Joshua, he wasn't even looking for information. Rather, he
simply wanted Linda to validate what he already knew.
mysteries of conception, pregnancy and giving birth are enormous
for all children. It is important that we take all their questions
seriously and answer them appropriately. However, sometimes as parents,
our desire to teach our children interferes with our ability to
listen to what they are really asking. This is especially true with
young children. Joshua, for example, wasn't really interested in
the details that his mother gave him. Rather, he wanted reassurance
that the baby in front of him had, at one time, been inside his
mother's "tummy." Here is an easy trick that can help you to figure
out what your children are really asking -- never answer a question
directly. For example, when Joshua asked where Adam came from,
Linda could have responded, "tell me where you think he came from."
Joshua's response would have given Linda a very good idea about
what he really wanted to know. Often young children already have
the information they need and simply need you to validate it for
them. In fact, sometimes hearing too many details can be scary for
a young child. When you do give a very young child information,
stick to the most simplistic explanations possible. For example,
if a very young child asks, "how will the baby get out of your tummy?"
you might respond, "the doctor/midwife will help take the baby out
of my tummy." Much more information than this would probably be
confusing and even frightening for a child three or four years old.
they get older (about 6-10 years) children begin to demand more
information and more details about where babies come from. As you
give them this information, you should continue to do it in the
same way as when they were younger-always asking them what they
think first. Then cautiously give them a little more information,
either to add to what they already know or to correct any mistakes
in their understanding. Elementary school age children tend to have
a very "black and white" view of things and they will frequently
be quite happy with a few carefully chosen facts about conception,
pregnancy and birth. They probably will not have the never-ending
supply of "why" questions of younger children. As you give children
more information, you should be aware of how they are receiving
it. For example, if you start to talk about how a baby is born,
and the child looks away, changes the subject or becomes obviously
uncomfortable, it might be a signal that he or she has had as much
information as they can handle for now. You can tell the child that
you'll talk about this some more, at another time. This doesn't
mean that you should end the discussion forever. But sometimes you
will need to come back to the subject several times, in short chats,
before your child feels relaxed. Children need to learn the information
at their own pace.
Talking to an older child (11 years and up) about conception, pregnancy and the birth process is probably more challenging for a parent than having this discussion with a younger child. But the topic of "making babies" is often an important one, especially for young teens because it is very connected to their interest in learning about sex. In fact, they may ask you questions about the conception and pregnancy of their sibling or even a friend or relative in an attempt to gain knowledge about sex, without asking directly. At this point you will need to provide your child with as many details as they can handle. You will be able to sense how comfortable they are, in the same way as you would when they are younger (wanting to change the subject, giggling, seeming anxious.) This can be a perfect opportunity for you to have an open and meaningful discussion about any aspect of pregnancy, sex, abstinence or birth control that feel most comfortable for you and your family.
- Get a good understanding of what they really want to know, by asking
your child more questions before answering their question
- Give information slowly, a little bit at a time.
- Pay attention to how comfortable your child is with the information
you are giving, and don't give more than they are ready to hear.
- If necessary, have the same discussion several different times to
help your child become more comfortable with the information.
- Older children and teens will require more information and facts
than younger children so be prepared to talk openly with them.
Read more articles:
So Now You Have a Middle Child
Dr. Susan Bartell
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