Two basic steps can help you talk with your child about sex.
First, find out what your child already knows. For example, ‘Where do you think babies come from?’ or ‘What have you heard about where babies come from?’
Second, correct any misinformation and give the facts. For example, ‘No babies don’t grow in their mummy’s tummy. They grow in a special place inside their mummy, called the uterus’.
2-3 years: what to say about sex, sexuality and bodies
Most children aged 2-3 years are very curious about their own and other children’s bodies. They’ll also notice that boys’ and girls’ bodies are different. Your child might ask you why or say, ‘What’s that?’ You can teach your child that every body part has a name and its own ‘job’ to do. For example, 'This is your vulva' or 'Your penis is where wee comes out'.
You might find that looking at a book with your child is helpful. You can use the pictures to help your child learn the names for body parts and understand the differences between boys and girls.
4-5 years: what to say about sex, sexuality and bodies
Children aged 4-5 years often ask where babies come from. They can understand that a baby grows in a mother’s uterus, and that to make a baby you need a sperm (like a tiny seed) from a man and an ovum (like a tiny egg) from a woman.
If your child asks ‘Where do I come from?’ you could ask, ‘What do you think?’ This helps you work out what your child is really asking and how much your child understands. You could give a simple explanation like ‘Babies grow in a place inside their mother called the uterus’.
If you’re pregnant your child might ask, ‘Where does the baby come out?’ Give a simple but accurate answer like ‘Your little sister is growing in my uterus. When she’s finished growing, she’ll squeeze through the birth canal, which is called the vagina’.
6-8 years: what to say about sex, sexuality and bodies
By six years old, many children are interested in how babies are made and might ask questions.
If your child asks, ‘How did the baby get into your uterus?’ ask your child what they think. This helps you understand what your child already knows. Then you can explain simply, giving as much information as you’re comfortable with. For example, ‘To make a baby, a sperm from a man and an egg from a woman join together.’
You could explain that this happens when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, which is when the man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina. It’s also good to explain that sexual intercourse is something that grown-ups do when they both want to, and that it’s not for children.
You might also like to say that sometimes babies enter families in different ways like IVF, adoption, foster care or grandparent care.
You don’t have to wait for your child to ask you a question. You could start a conversation by asking, ‘Have you ever wondered how you were born and where you came from?’ Or you might see a pregnant woman and say to your child, ‘That woman has a baby growing inside her. Do you know how the baby got there?’
You could also read a book together about where babies come from.
It’s a good idea to start talking to your child about puberty and how bodies change in puberty well before your child starts puberty. This could be when your child is around 6-8 years old.
If your child comes across sexting or pornography, stay calm. This can be an opportunity to talk with your child about what is and isn’t OK for children to see. And talking about these issues is one of the best ways to keep your child safe online and promote respectful online behaviour