In our family, we’re all about age-appropriate transparency. If our kids have questions about something mature, we do our best to provide honest, clear answers. And if there’s something I don’t know, we read a book or Google it together. I believe that knowledge is power and, aside from anything gruesome or scary, children deserve to be informed about the world around them.
My first grader is especially curious and she never hesitates to ask when she wants to explore a topic more. In kindergarten, she was given the “Love to Learn” award at the end of the school year, presumably for interrogating her teacher during every lesson. Long story short, she likes to know everything about everything.
With her personality, I shouldn’t have been shocked when she started wondering aloud how babies are made, but I was somehow not prepared with a response.
Should I tell her everything? Do I keep it vague? What is most important to know?
At that moment I told her that I wasn’t ready to answer quite yet, and then I ran down to the library to check out It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie H. Harris. It’s a New York Times Bestseller completely dedicated to educating families about human sexuality. It combines kid-friendly illustrations with straightforward language, scientific facts, and gentle humor.
I sat down with my daughter and we went through each page slowly, pausing to have discussions or relate new information to what she already knew. We read about pretty much everything: penises and vaginas, how our bodies change as we age, sperm and eggs, pregnancy, ways that babies are born.
I braced myself for a strong reaction, but she showed zero signs of discomfort or disgust. Each time we turned a page, she remained interested yet calm. At six years old, she recognized that how our bodies work is just a normal part of human existence and she was completely unfazed.
Her nonchalance was so unexpected! Even though it felt like a big deal to me, it wasn’t to her.
I think that a large reason for my surprise is that I was never encouraged to speak frankly about sex. Growing up, I don’t think I ever heard either of my parents speak the word aloud. With my daughter, I approached the book like it was just regular storytime. Although our bodies and sex are significant, I was careful not to imply a stigma, and I’ve left the door open for follow-up conversations.
Out of respect for her classmates and their families, I did ask my little one not to have conversations about how babies are made outside of our home. Even though it’s natural and normal, she understands that some parents aren’t ready to teach their kids yet and we want to be mindful of that.
In addition to human anatomy and reproduction, It’s Not the Stork! teaches children about additional ways families are made and bodily autonomy. If they haven’t already, your kids will likely notice “nontraditional” households or encounter situations when their boundaries are tested. This book is a wonderful resource to supplement those necessary talks with your children.
It’s Not the Stork! was created especially for kids four and older, but you can also find accompanying books for bigger kids. It’s So Amazing! is geared toward kids seven and older and It’s Perfectly Normal is intended for kids 10 and older.
How do you talk to your children about sex?