How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Sex

Do your preschooler's questions leave you stuttering? These smart answers make "the talk" as easy as possible.

Don't Be Caught Off-Guard

Last summer, my 5-year-old son, Jonah, and I were chatting at a local cafe. Keenly interested in the human body and how it works, he already knew that an egg from a woman and a "seed" from a man make a baby. But now he wanted specifics. "How do the egg and seed get together?" he asked. Gulp. People at nearby tables put down their coffee and waited, also dying to hear my response.

I shouldn't have been shocked. Preschoolers are notoriously inquisitive, and many develop a healthy sexual curiosity. What's surprising is how sophisticated their questions can be -- and that's when parents may stumble and give kids the brush-off. But it's important to provide answers. "You need to reassure children that they can always ask you a delicate question and get a sensitive and honest answer," says Justin Richardson, MD, coauthor of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They'd Ask). This way, your child will be more likely to come to you later in life when sex conversations have broader implications. Keep your cool by having these smart responses at the ready.

The scenario: Your child asks a question about how a woman's egg is fertilized.

The solution: If your child catches you unprepared, it's okay to stall. Say, "Let me think about it because it's a great question," says Robie H. Harris, author of It's NOT the Stork! Ideally, you should get back to him with an answer as soon as possible. Explain that when grown-ups want to make a baby, there's a special kind of love called "making love," or sex. It happens when the daddy puts sperm (lots of "seeds") inside the mommy; if a sperm and an egg meet, a baby can grow. That answer may be enough and he'll drop the subject. If he presses you for more info, it's fine to say that the man's penis goes inside the woman's vagina -- but always use proper names for body parts. Harris adds that it's important to explain to your child that only grown-ups share this kind of love.

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