Talking to a four-year-old about sex?

How do you talk to a four and a half-year-old about sex?

Before I had kids, I would have said… you don’t.

But then my four-year-old son started asking about whence his younger brother (and now a younger sister) came.

My wife, good science student that she is, opted for the straight-up biological explanation: There is an egg, it gets fertilized, baby grows inside mommy, baby comes out.

That held him for a little while. But then today, this conversation ensued:

4.5-year-old son: Daddy, how did you fertilize the egg?

Me (stammering): Uh… egg?

He: Yeah, how did you fertilize mommy’s egg?

Me: Well, there’s just a special way that mommy and daddy show love to each other that makes that happen.

He: Can I watch?

Me: No, it’s private.

He: Then can I watch from the wall?

That’s as far as I’m willing to go in explaining sex to a kid that young… on the one hand, I want him to hear it from me before he hears heaven-knows-what descriptions from his peers when he starts going to school all day. On the other hand, I’m not sure he’d be able to handle all the details (or that it’s appropriate to share them at this point). I can see him sharing his newfound knowledge with someone else at an inopportune time.

So parenting pros (or even parenting novices)… how do you talk to your kids about sex? How much do you say and when?

14 thoughts on “Talking to a four-year-old about sex?

  1. “Then can I watch from the wall?” That’s priceless! I try to provide correct but vague answers because I find they usually get distracted by shiny objects if I make it sound really boring and take a long time getting to the “good parts”. How did the egg get fertilized? Sperm. What’s sperm? It’s what fertilizes eggs. Very circular, very vague. If get’s too specific “oh hey look at what the dog’s doing!” Seems to work.

    1. “Correct but vague” is definitely the approach we’ve taken so far, too. The one thing I am sure of in all this is that I don’t want to provide incorrect information (e.g., the stork, etc.) that will later have to be corrected. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Abram, as the mother of your 4-year-old’s friend, I am grateful that you have been correct but vague. My 4-year old is in about the same place. I want to know the minute you get more specific so we can prepare! 🙂

  3. Howdy, Abram! From another former St. Mark’s parishioner. I recommend the series of books mostly by Stan and Brenna Jones. The series title is God’s Design for Sex. Actually, I don’t really recommend the fourth one, as it’s appropriate for Christian teens in the Christian subculture of the 1970’s, or earlier. But it moves on to things like dating, and by then, you really don’t need this kind of book.

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