Children learn about sexuality in many
ways and in many situations. One way is by asking questions. Some questions
about sexuality are tough to answer. It helps if adults are open to children’s
questions, though. They can help children be comfortable talking about
sexuality. This section offers ideas about what to do when tough questions
is helpful to find out what the parents have already taught their child.
Ask what terms they use in describing sexuality. That information can
be part of an enrollment form, or you might discuss it when you share
your sexuality education policy
with the parents. You should tell parents about discussions you have with
their children about sexuality. This way, parents will know what you have
done and can follow up on the discussion.
children’s questions about sexuality can be difficult, even if you
have already talked with their parents. It is helpful to first ask the
child, “What do you think?” This will help you get an idea
of what the child already knows and why he or she is asking.
example, a 3-year-old child might ask, “Where do babies come from?”
If you then ask, “What do you think?” the child might answer,
“from Mommy’s tummy.” That answer is basically appropriate
for her age. Other 3-year-olds may believe that children are left on the
doorstep or dropped from a stork in the sky. In those cases, you could
say, “There is a special place inside a mother where a baby grows.”
is important to answer a question honestly and at the level of the child.
A 12-year-old will need a more complete answer than a 4-year-old. An older
child who asks about babies may need help understanding the process of
birth. As a child grows older, it is good to answer in more detail.
Here is a process to follow when children ask difficult questions:
• What do they know?
Ask the child how he would answer his own question.
Find out what he already knows about sexuality. Give the child
some additional information, but answer at the child’s
• Clarify the question.
Find out what led the child to ask the question. Make
sure you understand the question before beginning an answer.
Children might ask, “Where did I come from?”
Some children might want to know how babies are born. Others may
want to know at which hospital they were born or in what
city they used to live.
• Answer the question in a simple way.
Try to keep answers short and simple. Children usually
ask exactly what they want to know. Often, they want a simple
answer and not a long explanation. They might ask more questions
if they are not satisfied. Expect more questions, and
keep answering with short explanations.
• Be honest.
Tell children what you know about the questions they
ask. Avoid talking about storks or cabbage patches. It is not helpful
just to say that babies are “gifts.” That can
be confusing. If you do not know the answer to a question a child has
you could look it up. Sometimes you may want to pass the
question on to the parents.
• Use the correct terms.
Use the correct words for body parts so the child does
not become confused. You may want to encourage parents to do
this, too. Children should know the correct names for all
sexual body parts by age 5.
• Let sexuality be a normal part of life.
Don’t whisper or change your facial expression
when you talk about sexuality. Let children know that these words
normal and appropriate. It helps when you say words like
penis, vulva, vagina, birth canal, and sex as you do any other
words. If you are not used to saying these words, it may
help to practice saying them to yourself in private or to a mirror.
This might help you be more comfortable when you talk with
• Be prepared.
Think about the questions that might come up. Imagine
how you might answer them. Some common questions are:
“Where do babies come from?” “Why does
my brother/sister look different from me?” “What is sex?”
Many times the initial
questions will be followed by “Why” questions.
Sometimes it is good for providers to answer the “Why” questions.
times it is good to have the parents answer them.
• Share information with parents.
to answer their children’s questions. Tell parents when you
have had discussions about sex in the
childcare program. Offer them information about normal
Help parents to prepare for questions that
might come up.
with your children about sexuality
Go to: • When children’s
play involves sexuality
Tips for providers
Red flags – recognizing sexual abuse
Books for parents and children