The kids came running home after play last evening, sounding very excited. The cause of excitement, as I learnt later, were a couple of snakes in the open grassy land next to the apartment.
“Mamma the snakes were mating,” the elder one told me, “or maybe they were fighting, because they were coiled together”.
I was suddenly all ears, more curious to know where he had picked up that word. Not wanting to sound scandalised, I casually asked him, “What is mating?”
“I think they were trying to have a baby.”
Gosh. How do kids even begin to know about the birds and bees?
“Who told you that?” I asked him.
“My friend, C, he is 7th std now, he knows.”
“Hmm… ” I said, half expecting him to ask me how exactly do they do it!
“Will the snake lay eggs?” he wanted to know.
“Yea it will.”
“How are the human babies born? Did you lay an egg too when I was born?”
I resisted the urge to burst out laughing, picturing myself laying an egg! There came the question I had been wondering for long about how I might answer, if it ever did! But I didn’t want friends becoming source of information and misinformation to my child. He had to know he could talk to me about anything he wanted to know.
“Babies of mammals come from the fertilization of an egg too, only difference is that they form within the body of the mother while reptiles and birds lay it outside.
He seemed satisfied with the answer. I know some day he’ll want to know more, and I’m sure I’ll be able to let him know.
“Is there anything else you would like to know?”
“Yes…. do snakes drink milk?”
Kids always have a lot of questions. And when they begin to ask about sex and about their bodies, most parents begin to get uncomfortable. But avoiding such questions will only make them more curious and they will start searching for answers to their questions elsewhere. Friends are not the most reliable sources and you never know what information they might pick up from them. Of course you don’t have to tell them everything, just filter what is relevant to their age and tell it to them truthfully. They are not looking for fancy answers or detailed explanations. They just want to hear what satisfies their curiosity at their appropriate ages.
How young is too young?
It is never too early to begin talking. Now with crimes against kids coming to the fore at alarmingly young ages, it is only too wise to keep the child armed with knowledge. Also kids begin surfing the net at an early age too, so it is important that they don’t fall prey to cyber crime or unwittingly get led to prohibited sites searching for answers.
How do you begin to talk?
For starters, you can initiate the talk while watching TV. Say, you see an accident, begin by asking them what is safe and what is dangerous. You could say, playing with matchsticks or knife is dangerous, wearing a helmet is safe and so on… Get them to participate. Once they participate, also tell them that certain parts of their body are private and it would be a sign of danger if anyone should touch them. Teach them how to be safe. Tell them who is allowed to touch them and who is not. For eg. Mummy or granny can touch you when they give you a bath, the doctor can touch you when he examines you in mummy’s presence.… Tell them what they should do when someone tries to touch them inappropriately. That way kids grow up to trust you completely with their problems.
Another question that invariably comes up is the difference between boys and girls. My sister’s daughter happened to see my little one when I was changing his clothes and she wanted to know why he had a little trunk like an elephant! Such situations are good conversation starters. It lets you tell them how girls and boys are the same, yet some body parts are different.
This is the beginning. Once the ice is broken and they know they can talk to you about anything, the questions will keep coming on their own. If you stub their questions, they will never come back to you for anything.
Always try to find out what they want to know. Some questions may seem straight forward but might not be. Ask them questions like, “What have you heard about it?” “What do you think about it?” “Can you tell me what you already know about it?”
Don’t answer with too much information. Keep your answers short and simple and explain new words if the kids have not heard them before. Just make sure you answer them without feeling embarrassed, and give them correct information according to their age.
Encourage follow up questions. Ask them if there’s anything else they would like to know.
Check their understanding. After giving an answer, you can ask them, “Does that answer your question?”
If there’s something you don’t know, it’s ok to tell them so. You can always find out and get back to them later.
You might be uncomfortable in the beginning, but over time, it gets easier to communicate. It always helps to start when the child is young enough to understand because then these talks become a part of your regular conversation and don’t seem out of place or embarrassing.
My name is Shubhangi Srikanth and I write under the pen name Titli. I started my blog “the little princess” and it helped me channel my thoughts in the proper direction.
After having worked for more than 12 years in the Pharmaceutical and Banking sector, I now freelance as a content writer for medical and health websites. I have two adorable boys, who have taught me more about life than I could teach them. Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling roles of my life, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!