I am looking for some advice on how to explain to my young children how it is that their unmarried teenage aunt (my little sister) is pregnant. My oldest child is 6, and up to this point the kids just know that when husbands and wives love eachother, God creates babies. I feel they are too young to be told about the specifics of sex and know they will be terribly confused about why God would give a baby to a teenager. Our family is heartbroken to be in this situation and I am trying desperately to minimize the damage it causes to my children.
They are very young. They will probably not be able at this stage of their development to make the distinction that it is the fact that your sister is not married which is causing the sorrow, and they may well conclude that your family is upset about having the baby him/herself (especially if they can recall having ambivalent feelings themselves about a little brother or sister). Also, it depends on how far your sister is along. If she is less than 6 months pregnant (not showing), I wouldn’t say anything. Even for the 6 year old, I wouldn’t say anything until your sister is quite obviously showing (7 or 8 months along) and then to say something on the order of ‘a new baby is coming into the world and we will love and welcome the baby’. Then, after having said that for a couple of weeks, you might read the gospel (Luke 2) about Mary and Joseph and ask if it might have been hard for Mary to be so far advanced in pregnancy and to have to travel. Then you could mention that sometimes there are circumstances around having a baby that make it hard for the mother or father, like there were with Mary. You could say that Joseph could have refused to help her, and then she would have been on her own, but God would help her even though it might not seem like He was. You could say that people might think God was mean to let a little baby be born in a stable but that in later times it helped Jesus to be understanding of poor people because he knew what it was like. You could say that many times things happen that look bad or hurtful but that God has a plan even if we can’t see it at the time, and that if we trust God, all will work out.
If your oldest child is only 6, and if you see your sister only on occassion, why are you trying to explain it at all? Just say this is your cousin. If your children ask detailed questions about where the baby came from, perhaps just explain that women have special parts inside of them that grow babies and God always is happy when the man who made the baby lives with the mother, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
There doesn’t need to be any emotional upset connected to the explanation or much detail. Your children might associate their cousin with something bad if you become too wound up about this.
WAIT until the children ask, then answer the question with showing much love for your sister and not showing the “hearbroken” sadness.
Some kids are on the ball and others are clueless.
I was one of the clueless ones. I went to a cousin’s wedding when I was older than your oldest. (9 or ten maybe) The bride wore purple and was still in high school. They had a child several months later.
It was years before I figured it all out!
Wait until they ask and give short, simple answers.
I was nine when I asked why a friend of the family’s was fat. I would not say anything until you are asked especially since you don’t see her that often. If and when the kids ask where the father is, I’d tell them he’s like a soldier, he doesn’t live at home because he has to work somewhere else.
Personally I think the best thing in such situations is if your sister places the baby in an adoptive home. In that case you may not need to explain anything to your children, especially if they only see their aunt occasionally.
But my guess is that your sister plans to raise the baby. In this case I’d agree that you shouldn’t say any more than you have to about how your sister got pregnant. What you can say is that it’s God’s plan for men and women to get married so they can make a family for children to grow up in. But sometimes people do things a little out of order. (Maybe you can give them some examples from their own lives… sneaking a peak at a present before Christmas, taking a cookie before it’s time for desert…) So now Auntie and her boyfriend are going to have a baby. Everyone may be rather upset that the baby is a “bit early”. But a baby is still wonderful and soon there will be a new little cousin.
I agree with some of the previous posters - there really is no need to explain it to your children. When they are older, they may have questions. Thinking about that situation for me, I think my kids would be pretty clueless about it.
Thanks for your posts–my main concern about explaining this situation to my kids is because we do see my sister quite often (she lives in the same town and with my parents) and we are a close knit family. My oldest child is extremely bright and inquisitive and has already asked more specific questions about where babies come from, and I’m afraid that my “vague” answere are no longer going to be sufficient for her. This situation makes it much more difficult because I think my daughter is going to ask specifically how the baby got there and I’m not sure what to tell her (since “Got put it there” doesn’t make a lot of sense).
We had hoped and still pray that my sister will place the child for adoption, but right now she is not very open to the idea and wants to raise the child herself. My parents do not feel this is what is best (my sister is very young, immature and selfish and not ready at all for parenthood) and this has caused a lot of turmoil. I have no doubt that the kids will love and adore their cousin but I don’t want them to think that this situation is “okay”–especially if my sister ends up living with her boyfriend, etc… which is not something I want them exposed to.
How old is your sister and her boyfriend? If she’s thinking of moving in with him, he must be 18…no?
If she’s thinking of moving in with him after the baby is born, why isn’t she living with him now? My thought is if she did so maybe by the time the baby arrived she might be ready to have baby adopted.
Other thought…what do his parents think about all this?
Felicity, some of other posts, such as the one from Tantum Ergo and SMHW offer some very good ideas for explaining the situation to a young child. As Tantum Ergo said, you might use the example of the hardships of the Blessed Mother as an example of how to explain God’s purpose for people when their lives have some imperfections. You can also explain that sometimes God gives people hardships, and other times we bring them on ourselves, as in SMHW’s example about stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.
Rather than harming your children, this situation will allow you to show your children first hand how to rely on God in difficult circumstances and to demonstrate forgiveness, love and compassion when responding to people who have made a choice that could cause harm. I hope for your family’s sake you can refrain from some of the criticism and dis-engage from the negative emotions and just allow God to work here. I would probably refrain from telling your children, whatever your sister chooses, that it was the wrong choice.
My sister is almost 18 and the boyfriend just turned 18 (seniors in high school). She does not want to move in with him but his parents have basically said they would ‘raise the child’ for her (which they have done with another grandchild). My parents are trying to show her that she is not ready to raise a baby since neither she or her boyfriend are willing to take any real responsibility (just want their parents to do it for them). It will break my Mother’s heart if she moves out but I’m sure if she does she will realize it is not what she thought it would be.
Of course if she keeps the baby we will all love and support her and will emphasize the need to pray for them (as we do now). I know that the pregnancy’s impact on my family is obviously not the most significant concern here, but right now it is the only thing I have any control over.
If your 6 year old is asking lots of questions, perhaps it is time to go into a deeper explanation with her. I don’t yet have any experience explaining the details to a child, but I imagine a search of the forums will yield some advice on what you might say.
As for the unwed aspect of this pregnancy, I think you need to emphasize two points with your daughter. First, that all babies are blessings from God. Yes, teenage pregnancy is something we hope our children are never involved in. But this is an opportunity for you to let your daughter know that even if she makes mistakes, you will still love her and be there for her. Second, emphasize that while sex is something you CAN do before you are married, God wants you to wait. At 6, she is ready to understand the idea of sin. (The simple explanation I use with Jack: “Sin is saying no to God”.) She is also ready to understand forgiveness. This unfortunately timed pregnancy gives you an opportunity to explore each of those ideas.
If I were you, I might begin by explaining sin and forgiveness to her. Then, as your sister’s pregnancy progresses and your daughter has more questions, you can explain the basics of sex and the other points I mentioned.
Congratulations to your sister. And prayers for peace for your family in this trying time.
And the materials from Mrs. Mast at www.sexrespect.com are good for teaching the facts of life.
My kids are young, and while I would definitely want them to understand that we love babies and support mothers, I also would want them to understand that mommies having babies without daddies is NOT the way God intended it.
I’ve always been open about my conflicts of emotions with my kids. When my Grandmothers died, I told them I was happy they were going to be with Jesus, but sad because I was going to miss them. I couldn’t just tell them one part of the story because it wasn’t authentic, and they’d pick up on that. In the same way, I think it is appropriate to tell young children that we are happy that there is a new baby in the world, and that we want to do everything we can to help the mother and baby… but that we understand that God wants babies to be born to married couples. Maybe some kids wouldn’t get it, but some will, and I think it’s worth it.
So I’d probably wait as long as possible (after all, if there was a miscarriage, they wouldn’t need to be told at all), and then just explain that she is pregnant. I’d look for the opportunity to explain your conflicted emotions (see above). This way you are not confusing them into wondering if marriage really is supposed to be a precursor to children or not.
If the children ask how the mommy can get pregnant without a husband, then just say, that God makes babies WITH the help of the mommy and the daddy. This baby has a daddy too, he just isn’t married to the mommy. If they ask for more details, give them gradually and only if they are asking:
step one - you can mention the seed and the egg and that they have to combine.
step two - the man puts the seed into the woman
step three - a husband and a wife have a special kind of cuddle that allows this to happen.
However many details you give your child about the mechanics of reproduction, you can say that God gave men and women the ability to make babies, but he wants men and women to get married first, because…(insert practical and spiritual reasons here)… However, sometimes people act as though they’re married when they’re really not, and this is why they might end up having babies without being married. I would say, “I am very sad that Auntie made some bad choices and acted as though she was married when she wasn’t. But we love her and our little cousin in her belly very much. And so does God. And we can’t wait to meet our little cousin!”
You may find that they don’t ask any questions much at all. Tell them their aunt will have a new baby. If they ask about the dad, tell who he is - it isn’t as if there is no father. If they ask why they aren’t married, then you can address that. I would just say that although it is usually best for a mommy and daddy to be married, sometimes things don’t work out that way.
I don’t think six is too young to go into details of sex, if the child asks. I know my 4 year old daughter wanted to know how the father was “part” of the baby, and although we didn’t get into the whole thing before she was satisfied, I can see her asking the right questions by six. It doesn’t carry the same emotional weight for a child - they tend to be very matter of fact about such things.
I would tend not to let your kids see whatever difficulties the other people in your family are having with the situation. The emotional, and even some of the moral issues are really going to be above their heads. And if they see that people are angry or disapproving of their aunt it may be very difficult for them to deal with at this point. To them, she is an adult, and someone they love, and probably even an authority figure to some degree. If they think she has been bad, they may feel that they need to somehow shun her or think less of her. When they get older they will be able to understand and may even ask questions about the situation.
Also, while you think of your sister as a teen, remember that your kids likely don’t. And there are plenty of married 18 year old’s with kids, though it is less common these days.
I went through this with my kids when they were about 8 & 9. My 15 year old niece became pregnant. They don’t live nearby but would often visit. I waited as long as I could before telling them. I tried to keep it casual. So I told them on the way home from school. My oldest said, “wait, she’s not married! I thought only married people could have babies!” The youngest said, “wait, she’s not even an ADULT! Kids can have babies?” So I had to explain that God’s plan for us is to be married and then have babies. But sometimes people don’t do what God wants of us. I told them that we were happy that there would be a new baby in the family. We would welcome that baby the same as we had all the others in the family. About 2 years later, my friend’s daughter (19 at the time) became pregnant. The girls asked again about why all these people were having babies without being married. I told them that sometimes people do things that go against how God wants us to live. They asked how were they supposed to feel about the children who come out of un-married relationships. Again I explained we love them all the same. While we can acknowledge that it happened the wrong way, we are to be loving, forgiving and compassionate. We can admit that someone made a mistake. But we love them anyway. And that sometimes we mess up too and need forgiveness. And that it is wrong to judge others. Sometimes people will do things that we would NEVER do, but sometimes we are the ones doing wrong too. I think we have to be careful with this issue. We can send the wrong message to our kids if we are not careful. It is a hate the sin, not the sinner type thing. But I don’t think young kids understand that really well. I hope everything turns out well for your sister and the new baby. God bless!