Your 3 1/4-year-old: The birds and the bees

Your 3 1/4-year-old: The birds and the bees

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Your 3-year-old now

Are you prepared for that eternal question, "Mom, where do babies come from?" A little preparation in advance about what you'll say can reduce the fluster factor:

  • Don't put him off ("I'll tell you all about it another time, okay?"). Your child needs to know that he can come to you with any kind of question.
  • Keep your answer simple. A detailed account of how reproduction works will only confuse a 3-year-old. Most are satisfied with a one-sentence answer: "You came from Mommy's tummy."
  • If he's more curious, ask some questions of your own to find out what he's really after: "What made you think about babies today?" For example, he might really be wondering whether babies come from the hospital (like his friend's little sister) or from a cabbage patch (like he saw in a movie).
  • Be accurate. Don't pass on tall tales. Books can be a great help here. The experts have already done the legwork and know what's appropriate to tell a preschooler (one classic picture book: How You Were Born, by Joanna Cole).
  • Above all, try not to get freaked out. Preschoolers have sensitive radar. They'll know if you're uncomfortable. Give matter-of-fact, honest answers to his questions now and your child will be more comfortable approaching you with thornier sex questions later.

If you want to introduce the topic before your child asks, look for teachable moments. A nursing mom, a friend's new baby, or an encounter with a baby animal at the zoo, for example, can lead to early discussions about how babies are made.

Your life now

While many parents worry that their child will be confused if the rules at Grandma's house are different than at home, consistency between locations is less important than you might think. Kids quickly catch onto the idea that the rules at preschool differ from those at home or at friends' houses. What's critical is that the adults involved all agree on the big issues (whether spanking is ever okay, how long time-outs last, and the basic daily routines such as bedtime) and that you each enforce your separate smaller rules consistently.

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