Tamariki will have varied levels of interest about where babies come from — here are some resources to help you deal with their questions when they arise.
Generally, it’s best if parents answer the questions tamariki ask, rather than introduce the subject to them. A 3- or 4‑year-old needs only a little bit of information at a time. The adult can check what their tamaiti thinks the answer is – that will guide the adult’s answer.
Where did I come from?
We tell our tamariki about their tīpuna, those who have died and our connections with them and relationships to them. We tell them that they are people who ‘lived before you were born’. So it’s natural then that a child will wonder where they themselves were before they were born and how they got here.
Questions will also naturally come up if a parent, friend or another whānau member is having a baby. Whānau can refer to Tākai's Whakatipu booklet Te Kākano, in which a baby’s prenatal growth is covered, alongside the expectant mum’s health and wellbeing needs.
‘The important thing is for a parent to explain difficult topics without seeming anxious,’ says Jerome Kagan, professor of psychology at Harvard University. ‘The child is picking up the melody line, not the words.’
Remaining calm and matter-of-fact is key, as a child will likely pick up on any discomfort from the adults and might get the idea that there’s something wrong, shameful, odd or embarrassing about having babies.
Always keeping the lines of communication open is important. Use accurate terms and language and keep it simple. Suggest to whānau that they might want to rehearse answers to the obvious questions:
- How did the baby get in your puku?
- How will it get out?
- Can I see it?
- When can I have a baby?
If the parent is confused or doesn’t quite know how to answer, there’s no need to put the child off. The parent can be honest and tell their child they’re not sure how to answer right now, but they’ll think about it and have a conversation later.
There are a number of good books about the subject for children of all ages. The local librarian will be able to guide whānau in the right direction.
The BabyCenter(external link) website also has lots of information and ideas about how to talk with pre-schoolers about how babies are made, which might help parents who are struggling to find the right words.
In the Sex Ed Rescue(external link) website they identify 3 good reasons why it’s important to answer children’s questions about sex:
- It’s easier to start answering questions when the tamariki are young for both parents and children. If you leave it too long, they will need more ‘in-depth’ answers.
- Parents are establishing themselves as their child’s ‘go-to’ person for information, and the first place they should look for answers.
- By answering honestly and without fuss, parents are showing their children they’re comfortable talking to them about anything. This is also building their trust and confidence in their parents as people to talk to, especially if they have any worries or concerns.