I know I’ve felt the pressure to have all the answers…
It’s like a scene in an Indiana Jones film. Your kid asks you a question about sex and then all of a sudden you’re being chased down a narrow corridor by a huge boulder of, “You must know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! And you must know it now!” That panic and anxiety of parenting in the moment. You don’t want to avoid the question, like you’re putting them off, or ignoring them. You may have felt shamed by silence in your own childhood. So you definitely don’t want to do that. They may be just a pre-schooler and you know it’s important to show up for them now so that they’ll come to you later. You know that these interactions build a foundation for trust. But, but, but…. what is the right thing to say? You may have an idea, or you may have several ideas. You may be thoroughly confused as to why your 4 year old is even asking you this question. It’s enough to make you panic.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Take a deep breath. Slow down. Let the boulder roll pass you. Sometimes the best thing you can say to your child is that you aren’t sure what the answer is, that you’ll need some time to think about it, but you’re glad they asked, and maybe you’re curious as to what made them want to ask that question. It’s not just a bluff or a stall. It’s staying engaged while gathering more information.
You’re also modeling critical thinking around sexuality. Issues around sex deserve a thoughtful response. You get to hold that space with your child that you are thinking about this together. And that matters. It’s a dialogue, not a stand-up routine. Tell them when you aren’t sure and then figure it out together.