“Mommy, how are babies made?”
This is a question that has caused anxiety for even the most stoic parents. Parents who wouldn’t flinch at the most probing life questions often freeze up when any questions surrounding the three-lettered s-word comes up.
You’re Not Alone.
Let me assure you, you’re not alone in your fear of having “the talk.” Many parents (in my experience) are terrified of this topic—or at least a bit uncomfortable at the thought of this question out of their sweet babe’s mouth.
I was recently chatting with a mom who is a sex-educator in the public schools. She’s literally talked to thousands of kids about sex over her career. But when it comes to her own kids? Nothing but fear and trepidation.
It might sound ridiculous that someone who has talked about sex so much would have such a great fear of talking to her own kids. But she just wasn’t sure how to break the ice. She avoided talking about sex at all costs. She pushed the topic under the rug so far it wasn’t even in the same house anymore!
When your babe asks, “Mommy, how are babies made?”
For many parents, this question pops up sooner than they are ready for. I’m certain for my dear mother, it happened sooner than she was ready for. She had quite the persistent, inquisitive daughter.
I remember, at the ripe old age of 6, how I insisted that I wanted to know where babies came from. Prior to this, she had told me they came from the mommy’s belly. I was not going to be satisfied with this answer. I persisted and demanded, “I want to know really how babies are made. I know they grow in the mommy’s belly, but how do they get there!”
I think my mom realized I wasn’t going to give up. And thus I prevailed in my search for information. My mom took me aside later that evening and gave me all the nitty gritty details, and I might have been a wee bit grossed out by it all.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about talking to my own kids about sex. My husband and I have also produced numerous resources for Christian parents on this topic, so here is a no-freak out strategy for chatting with your little kiddo about how babies are made:
Tip #1: Realize the discomfort is yours and not your child’s.
Embarrassed. Squeamish. Anxious. Freaked out. Yes, those might all describe feelings you have when you think about having the talk with your little one, but realize these are your feelings, not your child’s.
While I don’t have a magic ball that can predict how your child will react, I can generally guarantee they’ll survive the chat emotionally unscathed. Some kids might be a little grossed out (daddy puts his what, where?), others might be fascinated, and still others might be a bit indifferent. They’ll all survive conversations about sex and live to tell about it.
Tip #2: Chat later, but don’t sweep it under the rug.
When you’re in total freak out mode, it is not the best time to have the conversation. My suggestion: compose yourself and tell your child you’ll answer their question later that day (or the next). Don’t sweep it under the rug, but do give yourself time to prepare. You don’t want to be stuttering and stumbling through the entire conversation.
Don’t put your child off too long. They need to know that they can ask questions and that you’ll answer honestly.
Tip #3: Be honest, concrete, and literal.
This is where some parents really get tripped up. In an effort to avoid embarrassment, they use weird language that doesn’t always make sense. They might say something like, “Mommy gives Daddy a special kind of hug and that’s how babies are made.” Or they might use strange terms for male and female genitalia or just give part of the information. This can be confusing or misleading to a child.
Just be concrete, honest, and literal with your explanation. For instance, you could say…
“Inside Mommy’s body are something called eggs. These are very tiny cells—so small you can’t see them with your eyes—and they are part of what makes a baby. Inside Daddy are something called sperm which are swimming cells that are even smaller than eggs. The way a baby is made is Daddy puts his penis in Mommy’s vagina. Daddy releases the sperm from his penis. These sperm swim to the egg and one of them might fertilize an egg that is near the mommy’s uterus. When this happens, a baby is made!“
(Yes, I just talked about penises and vaginas and how they go together, and no, saying this to your kid will not scar your child for life or turn them into perverts.)
Of course, you will need to continue that explanation and give even more details about what happens to the egg after it’s been fertilized. This statement above also assumes they know what penises, vaginas, and uteruses are, but if you haven’t really covered that yet, you can be straightforward about that, too. Using some simple drawings for diagrams of internal and external anatomy is also helpful.
Tip #4: Let the Bible break the ice for you.
You might be scratching your head wondering how to start these conversations without making it awkward. My #1 tip is to let the Bible break the ice for you.
The Bible helps you to stress context. Talking about the anatomy of sex is pretty easy, actually. But we need to state what our sexual values are: stressing the goodness and power of sex and how it is meant for married couples alone.
I know the Bible isn’t a biology textbook. But it has many truths about human sexuality that can help you start the conversation. The benefit of using the Bible is, for Christian parents who are already in the habit of sitting down and chatting with their kids about the Scriptures on a regular basis, these conversations about sex will just seem like a natural extension of that habit.
Use lessons in Genesis 1-2, like, “God created them male and female,” or “Be fruitful and multiply.” These are great lessons to introduce the topic of the difference between men and women and who being fruitful and multiplying is and how it happens.
Tip #5: Keep the conversation going!
Parents often talk about “the talk” as if it’ a one-and-done type conversation. While many parents unfortunately treat the topic like this, I urge you…don’t. The Journal of Adolescence reports that parents who have ongoing conversations with their children about sex as they’re growing up are much more likely to remain abstinent than their naive peers.
Your children need you to continue talking to them about this topic. In this overly-sex-saturated world we live in, they will learn about sex. If it isn’t from you, it will be from the world.
Answer your children’s questions. Be honest and open. Bring up topics in the news and media. Help your children understand that sex is powerful and often abused, but sex is also a good gift from a good God.
Sex Education Training
Obviously, these kinds of conversations are not a typical first-time birds-and-the-bees talk. There are many conversations that need to come first.
This is why my wife and I have released a brand new e-course called Having the Talk: Biblical Sex Ed Training for Parents. In this course we talk about…
- How to know when to begin talking to your kids about sex
- Talking to kids about the differences in male and female anatomy
- How to communicate the function and purpose of sex with your kids
- How babies develop in the womb
- The importance of sex within a marital relationship
- How to talk to your kids about adultery and sexual sin
- How to talk to kids about sexual abuse
- Many frequently asked questions both kids and parents have