Talking About Birth Control With Your Preschooler

Experts may say that four years old is premature to start discussing birth control with your daughter, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice.

Elsa has been in a very inquisitive mode lately, asking a lot of Big Questions. Such as: When are we going to die? Is the earth in outer space? And — in an oblique way — where do babies come from?

On a number of occasions, I’ve said things to the girls (prompted and unprompted) about the fact that they started out as just a tiny little seed / egg inside my belly, and then they grew bigger and bigger. This was satisfactory to them for a while, but recently Elsa asked how, exactly, those little seeds would get inside her. I explained that they were all inside her already, actually, and that someday, some of them would grow into babies. (See Jane awkwardly leave out the part about daddy seed….)

See Elsa totally call me on it: “I don’t want those seeds to grow into babies!!”

“Well,” I said, “they won’t, if you don’t want them to. They won’t turn into babies unless you have a seed from a man, too.” (Please don’t ask how it gets in there, please don’t ask how it gets in there….)

“I never want them to turn into babies,” she said. (Phew!)

Clio chimed in helpfully. “You don’t have to have babies, Elsa!”

The issue seemed to be settled for the moment. But then, yesterday, on the way home from church Elsa asked, “How did the world get here and where did we all come from?”

So I gave her a brief, preschool version of the big bang theory and evolution. To clarify the point that people don’t continue to come from apes (evolution is tough for the average four-year-old to grasp) Alastair jumped in and reminded the girls that people keep having babies to make more people. Elsa reiterated that she didn’t want to have babies, and we reminded her that she didn’t have to. And that the seeds inside her didn’t have to turn into babies unless she and a man decided that they wanted them to.

“I’m never going to get near a man so I don’t have any babies,” Elsa announced at that point.

(Cue visions of Elsa in the schoolyard a few years from now: Did you know that you can get pregnant if you get too close to a man?)

We assured her that you can get near a man without having babies. You can even have a husband or boyfriend and not have any babies. “Lots of men and women are married but decide not to have babies. Like me and Daddy. We’re not going to have any more babies.”

“How do you do that?”

We had twins and therefore are always to tired to…. “I have a special kind of medicine that helps me not have babies.”

“Anyway,” Alastair cut in, “there are lots of ways to not have babies. Don’t worry.”

“I’m going to have five babies!” Clio declared. “And I’m going to name the first one Henry and I’m going to help him get dressed and change his diapers because he’ll just be a little kid, and he won’t know how.”

Clio has awesome timing sometimes.

But Elsa was apparently still concerned because later in the afternoon she said, out of the blue, “When we’re bigger will you show us that medicine so you don’t have babies?”

“Yes,” I said, and actually had a sort of fond vision of me and a teenage Elsa, having a loving, not-at-all-awkward, made-for-TV-movie mother daughter chat about birth control. “I will show you that medicine.”

“What kind is it? Is it strawberry or orange or blueberry or lemon….?”


What about you? Have your little ones asked you about the birds and the bees yet? And did you manage to handle it with more grace and aplomb than me? I’m feeling like I should have been more explicit in some, preschool-friendly way¬† (e.g. “Men and women have to do a special kind of hugging and kissing to make a baby”) but I didn’t want to confuse matters further.

All I know is the first time I ever heard anything close to detailed info about reproduction was when I was eight or nine years old and another kid told me that babies are made when “a man puts his thing in a girl’s thing and pees in there.”

Which made me feel about as enthusiastic about having babies as Elsa does now. And she doesn’t even know about the peeing part.

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Photo: Elena Clamen

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