Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So, my six-year-old daughter has understood that babies come from a "special kind of hug" done between the mommy and daddy. I should clarify that she has actually seen sex on a farm between animals and labeled it "hugging" herself when she saw it (though she couldn't really see the exact mechanics). I should also clarify that she already knows all the terminology for both the male and female anatomy and that the "special hug" requires no clothing and an older age than she is at now. I have used the term sex with her, but she prefers "special hug" and has clearly shown she isn't ready to fully grasp the mechanics part yet.

However, she put two and two together herself when she asked how babies were made and I answered something akin to when two people really love each other, they can get together and choose to make a baby together. She actually asked, "is it like the special hug the donkey's did?" I answered, "It can be." The confusion lies in the "choice" part. She understands this hug cannot be made accidentally and even that requires removing clothes, but is now confused because her youngest aunt (my youngest sister in law and who ran away from home) has now sent out an announcement and photo to all of us that she just had a baby.

There has been a lot of conversation about it now over the holiday. My daughter has always just figured that special hug happened between two people that were married and though I didn't purposefully plant this idea, I didn't correct it when she expressed it either.

Needless to say, my six-year-old has some questions:

"Why did Auntie do the special hug when she isn't ready for a baby?" being one of the main ones.

I do want her to get the idea that the "special hug" is generally reserved for much older members of society and that have a monogamous relationship without getting into too much detail or sounding too judgemental while also answering her question honestly.

My youngest sister in law is getting a lot of critique, because she is young, without an income, and without the means to truly care for this baby - subjects that are complex to broach with a six year old especially when sex is wrapped up in an already complex topic.

"Your aunt made a dumb-f*ck decision" - The answer my lovely father in law inserted and that thankfully, my daughter didn't quite catch - seems highly inappropriate to me as I'd like to be a little more sensitive to my sister-in-law and her baby even if it wasn't the smartest choice in the world. After-all, we all make mistakes.

I wondered how other parents in this situation may have discussed this with their early elementary or primary kids.

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Well, most six year-olds do lots of things without considering the consequences. Just pick one and ask, "Why did you <whatever> when you knew you would get into trouble for it?" It's because they liked doing it and weren't thinking of the consequences at the time.

share|improve this answer
1  
Good Point! Funny how things often seem so complicated that can really be pretty simple when you step away from it for a bit. I love that I can tell my daughter, "let me think about how I want to answer that one and get back to you." –  balanced mama Dec 31 '12 at 17:56
    
This equates to the father-in-law's reaction, but in more polite terms. Both are correct, unless she did indeed consider the consequences first and desired this outcome or considered it acceptable. Its pretty hard to bring judgement outright on this sort of thing -- it is how we all got here in the first place, after all. –  zxq9 yesterday

Since she is asking, this may be a good opportunity to discuss with her the mechanics of human reproduction in detail: naming the body parts properly and explaining their functions in the process. You can also discuss with here what Auntie did wrong and how this could have been avoided.

At this age kids a very non-sexual, so this may actually turn out to be a lot less awkward then it would be at the onset of puberty. It may also help establishing good and open communication habits about this tricky topic that can help to get successfully through puberty and young adulthood.

Not sure where you are from, but in the US the amount of squeamishness, communication avoidance, and outright misinformation by parents & institutions is very alarming. The results of that are disastrous: teenage pregnancy rates in the US are more than 10 times higher as they are in, say, the Netherlands.

While your daughter may still seem too young to think about this, now is good time to start.

share|improve this answer
    
This is the approach we took - it also gave us the chance to get a bit of practical sex education in before older kids at school started spreading incorrect rumours and tit-bits... –  Rory Alsop Dec 31 '12 at 17:48
    
The what "Auntie did wrong and how to avoid it," is really the trouble spot for me as I would like to avoid being too critical. It was a mistake, but this is her aunt and my daughter is already surrounded by highly critical people. Honest but Gentle is my goal here. –  balanced mama Jan 1 '13 at 7:36
    
@RoryAlsop: Did you deliberately misspell tidbit as a pun? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 2 '13 at 8:10
    
heh - no, titbit is a common spelling here :-) –  Rory Alsop Jan 2 '13 at 12:34

You only have a problem because you've described sex inappropriately. It's not a hug, so when you described it as a hug, you naturally raised questions whenever your child sees or thinks about people hugging. I also think it's natural to wonder about accidental/incidental hugs causing pregnancies, with that explanation. I'm not trying to scold you, but this is exactly the sort of confusion I would have expected with that explanation.

I think it's understandable to want to delay in-depth discussions on sex for young children (although I personally feel that matter-of-fact education is best). However, it's important not to be inaccurate, and of course important not to set a child up to hate people who are different (not that I'm implying you would do that). I think you can impart helpful Christian life values while discussing sex and pregnancy without being overly judgmental, e.g. "When a man and a woman love each other, sometimes they decide to have a baby, so they have sex and the woman becomes pregnant"; such statements do not deny the existence of other forms of love and sexual expression. No matter how one may feel about homosexuality, births out of wedlock, etc. these are facts of modern life, and it does a child a disservice to actively deny their existence. And of course one can be accurate while describing sex, just leaving out the details: "Sex is something a mommy and daddy do together because they love each other, and sometimes they make a baby that way" may satisfy a very young child for quite some time.

There are a ton of sex ed books for kids out now; I'd look them over and see if one appeals to you. I discussed the nuts and bolts of sex with my now-seven-year-old boy when it came up the first time, I think around the age of four. He took it in stride with no issues, and I followed up by getting him Child Atlas: Human Body by Richard Walker, partly because of the free Ellen McHenry study guide available. My second son is now three, and he has heard terms like "sex" but we haven't needed to have the first "talk" yet.

share|improve this answer
1  
My experience is that children don't bat an eye at matter-of-fact descriptions of the mechanics involved, so I wouldn't worry on that score. I think "hug" as a description of sex is pretty far from the truth, and that difference seems to be at the heart of the issue raised in your question. I guess if you don't want to focus on the mechanics, you still need to correct her confusion about some of the reasons why people have sex-- i.e. that it can be an expression of love, but also importantly that it feels fantastic. –  Iucounu Jan 1 '13 at 7:08

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.