The Birds and the Bees and Curious Kids
You're in line at the grocery store when your preschooler looks up and asks, "Why is my penis getting hard?"
How to respond: If a question arises at an inopportune moment, it's okay to give an incomplete answer, along with a promise to fill in the rest later on. In this case, you can
say quietly, "Oh, that happens sometimes. It will get soft again soon."
Joan Watkins says that when her two kids ask questions in an inappropriate place, she replies, "That's a really great question. We can talk more about it in the car, if you want." But it's important to come back to the question once you do get in the car: "Remember what you asked when we were at the store? Do you still want to talk about it?"
Hoping to demystify the potty for your toddler, you let her watch you pee. Soon she asks, "Why do you have hair down there?"
How to respond: "Young children ask simple questions and don't need more than simple, partial answers," says Virginia Shiller, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New Haven, Connecticut, and author of Rewards for Kids! Just say that it's natural for grown-ups to have hair in places that children don't, especially under their arms, between their legs, and, for men, on their faces. Birmingham, Alabama, mom Joan Watkins explained to her daughter Lora, 4, that when Lora gets to be a big girl like her mother and her aunts, she'll have hair covering her private parts, too.
Toddlers are big on imitation, and they're fascinated by the potty, so it's natural for them to wonder what you're up to in there. Letting your child join you in the bathroom from time to time is a good way to teach her there's nothing wrong or dirty about the human body.
Your child tells you her classmate has two mommies. "How can that be?" she asks.
How to respond: Homosexuality may seem like a confusing subject -- especially for kids who haven't even gotten the concept of heterosexuality down yet. But your explanation doesn't have to be complicated: "In Ginny's family, her two mommies love each other the way that Daddy and I do. So they live together, and both take care of Ginny."
The topic may also come up after your child hears a homosexual slur. Christi Cole's daughter Caitlyn, 6, said a boy at school had been telling kids in her class, "You're gay"-so of course she wanted to know what that meant. The Augusta, Georgia, mom explained that sometimes boys fall in love with boys and girls fall in love with girls, but that the boy at Caitlyn's school probably didn't really understand what he was talking about. Then she reminded her daughter that calling people names isn't nice and might hurt someone's feelings.