Recently, my five-year-old asked me how babies are made. As I drove along, I explained that a mummy egg and a daddy seed join up and they grow into a baby in the mummy’s tummy. Easy! Then she went on to ask if it was the same when there are two mummies. I said, "Well, it is a little different. You still need a mummy egg and daddy seed". She asked where do the mummies get the daddy seed, if there is no daddy in this family; and will that baby not have a daddy? I explained that, although the baby will not have a daddy physically present in their life, the mummies have to go to a special place where the doctor will help them to get a seed. Then the doctor will help them to put the egg and the seed into one of the mummies' tummies. Okay, great, that was that explained. Until she asks, "What about when there are two daddies, how do they get a baby? Can they have a baby?". I said yes, of course. She was surprised. "But how? How can a daddy get a baby without a mummy?" So, again, the explanations went on.
A whole other strand of questions started about whether the baby would see their mummy. I felt we needed to move away from the topic, but I continued to explain things simply and honestly. In her young eyes this conversation was very hard, as she could not imagine a mummy not being with their child. She then said to me, as we reached our destination (only 10 minutes had passed), "I am lucky I have a mummy and a daddy, it's straightforward for me".
For many children, however, it is not straightforward. There are many things about family life that are complicated but, as parents, we can make it even more complicated when we don’t explain things openly and honestly in an age-appropriate way. Remember; she is just gone five years old, so it is all about keeping it simple and as honest as you can. In time, you can build on the truth. Children don’t need all the detail in one hit, but they need layer after layer until they reach a stage where they have all the information. Then, they can fully understand situations, such as how babies are made, or surrogacy or, in so many cases, about their own family or the diversity of family life in general.
Parents can dread awkward question for years. It is always better to pre-empt your children's questions. It can be difficult for children to ask questions that are awkward. If they get cut down once, they may never ask again. We need to brave-up and take the first step in creating a space which supports children to ask us the awkward questions.
There are many books and activities that will support you to have conversations with your children. Children will value these conversations with you. Children are naturally curious, so if you don’t talk with them they will find others to ask. This is when children can often be misinformed and then you, as a parent, do not know what your child knows. They may have information that worries them, and that can cause changes in their behaviour.
Be the adult in your child’s life that they know they can talk to. You can always die of embarrassment later! But, at least you can pat yourself on the back knowing you were there for your child. If you can develop a relationship of open talk with your child when they are young, then they will most likely turn to you for support and advice when difficult challenges come their way. So, start talking and keep the awkward questions simple. We make them awkward by over-thinking and worrying.