Explaining the facts of life to children

ASKING questions is a child’s way of discovering what life is all about. Children think diat an adult knows all the L answers. I try to make mine realize that this is not so, and quite often we set about finding out things together.

When they ask me a question which I cannot answer, we wait for Daddy to come home and he helps us. I have learnt much myself that way, for Daddy usually reaches for the encyclopaedia and takes great pains to explain a point in detail. ‘

Sometimes a lonely child keeps on asking questions because he wants to keep on talking. A mother who finds this to be the case should start to cure the loneliness. Quite often the last child in a family can be as lonely as an only child. The bigger the family the greater the tendency to live for children and the satisfying of their needs – instead of living with them.

Susie said to me the other day: ‘Why do grown-ups say ‘Uhuh’ without even looking when you show them something and ask if they like it? ‘Susie caught me out there. It was so true. We mothers are so busy and the children chatter so, it becomes a habit to keep saying ‘uhuh.’ I could see that children felt this and it caused loneliness. I took Susie on my knee. . .. ‘It’s nice to have you all to myself,’ she said. ‘I’m glad I chose you for a mummy.’ Giving Susie some of my time specially for herself cured her loneliness. ‘Mother, tell me about being born,’ said Susie another day.

Children never mean to be impertinent – they just ask boldly a question which an adult would never dream of asking. Children are ‘out with it’ bluntly, and it is better to answer the question truthfully.

Youngsters go through stages, and I have been astonished to note how they reach those stages at approximately the same time in their lives, irrespective of the class of home in which they live.

There is the ‘why’ stage; the ‘discovery’ stage and the stage when they begin to be conscious of boy-and-girl attraction.

I find around ten years of age the worst for awkward questions that are nevertheless sensible and must not be ‘pooh-poohed.’ It is at this age that parents should begin to acquaint their children with the facts of life. They will take it all without question and see nothing but wonder in the knowledge given them by thoughtful parents.

This is as it should be; they have not yet reached the age of making serious confidants at school, and it is wise to tell them before school friends can do so. Then, when others discuss the facts of life, they will not be wrongly impressed.

It is a crime to allow children to learn about life from stories whispered around by crude companions. To let children gain their knowledge from giggly groups of boys and girls sniggering at the very miracle of life is the greatest injury parents can do their children.

They fail in their duty by not telling children the story of life. As a result, youngsters may become secretive and go with wrong companions. This is often the cause of much misery later in life when they marry.

Like everything else in marriage and parenthood, this problem has to be tackled in a systematic way. I find it best to talk naturally to the children and tell them a part of the story at a time.

Each child should be told the story at a time when he or she is alone with Mother. I tell my children that I am going to talk to them about the greatest story in the world, and they can ask me any questions they wish about it. I say the story will be between ‘us two ‘- something we are going to share because they have now reached the age when they should know life’s secrets.

This makes children of ten feel very important and that is the first step – to awaken in their little minds the fact that they are important.

The first talk is about the privilege of having a body and keeping it in healthy working order for the protection of future children. I stress the importance of guarding the body and keeping it in working order by looking after it in the way a man looks after a treasured car. The more they keep the body warm, protected and clean, the greater service it will give them and the longer will they live.

I explain the necessity of a daily evacuation of the bowels and describe the workings of the most wonderful machine in the world – the human body. I get this point over well by drawing a comparison as follows: there can be no clear-burning fire unless the ashes are cleared out daily and the same is true of the body – all waste matter must be cleared out to leave the body full of go and energy.

And I see to it, perhaps, that this first talk coincides with the birth of kittens in the home; this prepares the children for my next talk.

With each of my children in turn I have noticed that it gives them a sense of importance to know that I think they are big enough to be trusted and told the mysterious things known by grown-ups, and I think a mother should tell the boy as well as the girl. Father’s aid in this problem should only be enlisted when Mother has told them the first part of the story. Then Father can start to teach them the ways of nature without referring: to Mother’s explanation. At ten years of age a mother should also explain to her girl about menstruation.

But back to lesson two. . . . The facts of life make a story as wonderful and inspiring as the story of Jesus and the manger if told by a mother to a child at the right age. Children will feci a new comradeship towards their mothers when they share-miracle secrets, and mothers will imply to children, at this stage, that all mothers tell their little ones. And when they in turn become fathers and mothers, the girl will tell her children, and the boy’s wife will tell his children, just what they are being told now.

I find that children love to picture themselves as grown-up daddies and mummies and it makes the telling easier for the mother if she approaches the subject in this way.

Talk two is best explained when Mother is bathing the child. It makes everything confidential. Tell the child about the navel and the miracle of carrying a baby inside yourself for nine months; its growth and the feeding through the tube attached to the navel (the umbilical cord) and how, when it is time for the baby to be born, God stretches the body to allow the baby to be born from a special place. ‘Just imagine,’ a mother might add, ‘how wonderful it was that you came into the world this way.’ This is a great source of interest to a child.

It is important to end each talk with a point that will dwell in the child’s mind and leave it with something to wonder about in a personal happy way. So I conclude this talk by telling the child that the doctor then holds the baby by the legs – upside down – so that air will get to its lungs for the first time, and it is smacked gently, just like that (and I do it in fun to the interested child) to make it cry.

Tell the child about Daddy hearing the first cry, and the thrill it gave him to know he had a son or daughter. The art of getting this story over correctly is to make the child the main actor or actress.

This is the point I want to make. The child’s mind dwells on the doctor and the baby crying and Daddy knowing he had a son or daughter, and you leave the story there.

The third talk will be about how Daddy chose Mummy out of all the world specially to be his wife and the mother of his children, and how he promised God to love her and look after her and be good to her.

And because Mother had looked after her body (if you are talking to a girl) and because Father had looked after his body (if talking to a boy) they were able to live together happily and have happy, healthy children. ‘One day a nice boy will choose our little girl to live with him as his wife and be the mother of his children, and she must protect and look after her body so that when the great time comes she, like Mummy, will be able to give her husband fine, healthy, happy children. Isn’t that so, darling? ‘you end, and here again you get the personal touch that appeals to children so much at this age.

I impress on the minds of my children that there must be marriage before children come – that is the honour a good man pays a good woman. I hope this will make the children grow up with that knowledge firmly rooted in their minds, and I explain why it is so by telling them that a man marries the girl he loves best in all the world to protect her as his very own precious possession.

A difficult subject like the facts of life must be explained in this sentimental way, otherwise it could not be explained at all. That is why the age of ten is the time to do it – when sentiment surrounds all things grown-up in the mind of the youngster.

Then you will bring the child’s mind to animal life – how there must be a male and female to create new life. Liken Daddy and Mummy to the birds in the house-porch nest. Tell how the little birds are faithful to each other year after year. Explain that the female must bear the young, and quote animal stories of how the male protects the female.

Then comes the story of fertilization, and at this stage the mother’s problem will be easier if she has allowed the children to grow up together so that the girls and boys are familiar with the sight of each other’s bodies.

I so planned childhood’s days that by ten years of age the boy was completely on his own from the girls. If one works up to this stage gradually, children do not notice the separation of the sexes as they grow.

I have tried hard to make living a natural procedure for my children. As I see it, it is wrong to bring any mystery into this natural problem. I cannot tolerate mock-modesty on the part of parents who, by their narrow-minded points of view, wreck the whole beauty of life for a little girl or boy.

The finish to imparting the knowledge of life to children comes with the explanation of God’s wonderful way of keeping a woman’s organs internal to do the work of baby-producing, and a man’s organs external to do the work of fertilization.

If only parents could realize the awe and wonder with which children accept this knowledge, they would never hesitate to tell the miracle of life. It is a wonderful story.

As a child gets interested in nature study and the way life begins, the purpose of male and female becomes clear without any further explanation. It all comes naturally, and if the parents keep the mind busily occupied with nature subjects from then on. Even to having some pets, a difficult period in a child’s life will have been bridged successfully.