Q: Your child comes home and asks you the meaning of a sexual term. How do you answer?

 

A: It’s not unusual for parents to panic the first time their child asks a question about sexuality. But one of our many responsibilities as parents is teaching our child about the world in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

Answer on a need-to-know basis. Give an honest explanation that can be expanded upon as your child gets older. If you avoid answering the question, your child will interpret the subject as taboo and turn to less reliable sources, like friends or older kids on the school bus.

Fudging the answer often backfires. Toddlers will not do a Google search to fact-check you, but older curious children might. It’s best for you to be the one to teach your child and begin a journey of open, nonjudgmental communication, and for that to happen, the youngsters need to know that they can count on you to tell them the truth. You’ll appreciate that you established this relationship early when your child becomes a teenager.

Dr. ARI BROWN, pediatrician and author of “Baby 411” book series

A: Your answer should be based on developmental maturity and what you’ve already talked about with your child. The answer you’ll give a 14-year-old might be detailed and come with follow-up questions, whereas with a 5-year-old, you would give a much simpler response.

Use an explanation that fits within their understanding of human sexuality. With a young child, you can be truthful and still simply say, “That has to do with how babies are made.” As children get older, you can be direct with clinical terms.

The critical piece is teaching kids what is socially appropriate for them to say. You can tell them, “That’s a really rude word, and might make people upset that you say it.”

Dr. DAVID L. HILL, pediatrician and author of “Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro”