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Poo, dying and other unavoidable conversations

“Can you explain how poos are made Daddy?”

Wow. What a question from a six year old on a Friday morning!
But it did get me thinking.  How is poo made and how do you describe such an intimate process to your kids? When do such topics transition from being the frustrating fuel of endless “toilet talk” to a golden chance to provide education?  Come on mums, you know EXACTLY what I mean!
“Mummy, you’re a poo head.”
“Mummy has a poo face.”
Or the naked bum wiggle.
The young brain is constantly exploring, constantly seeking information and nothing is more fascinating than the human body.  These kids might not understand how we are “made”, but they desperately want to, and as their parents we need to harness that enthusiasm when it comes out. These questions provide the most amazing opportunity for you to sit down, talk, and bond with your kids. And that means, yes, you DO need to tell them how poo is made!
But what do they need to know?
Anything and everything!  Let them guide you.
“But I know nothing of the human body!”, I hear you cry. It doesn’t matter.  Tell them what you do know, admit the areas you don’t, then invite them to explore with you.  Together as a team you go searching and exploring.
The internet allows for quick searches  with immediate access to flashy images, specky videos and sound – the true multimedia experience.  Don’t get wrapped around the axels about how reliable the info is, you’re not facilitating an immediate transition to a neurosurgeon, you’re just trying to capture the moment and educate on the run whilst their brain is excited.
How much detail do you explore? When do you stop?
When your child asks you to.  If their hunger remains, if they’re engaged, keep exploring.
My six year old out of the blue said the other day “Our bones make our blood”.  I have NO idea where that came from and why he chose to tell me when we were conducting an exorcism on his four year old sister. (Yes, she truly WAS possessed by the devil. Ask the grocer, the cafe owner and the 20 other people that laughed along the street). Back to my point, kids retain the most peculiar bits of information and regurgitate them at the weirdest times.
What it means is that he has explored an interest in the body, learnt about bones, then become fascinated about their function.  It makes no difference that he can’t recall the bones name, but I bet you in two months time when we talk about one of his mates breaking their arm bone he will wonder whether they will still be able to make enough blood cells for the body.  Crikey, for some strange reason the four year old sister knows where her glutes and abdominals are! No idea why the ballet teacher thinks that is important, BUT, she has remembered.
From about the age of 2, kids start developing a sense of self and a sense of identity, fuelled by a fascination with how they work.   So once your kids are about that age take every opportunity to talk about the body.  Start with the big and shiny stuff: the heart, blood vessels, blood, bones, muscles, the brain or lungs.
Oh and don’t forget the poo.  Keep it simple to start, then increase detail as they build their knowledge.  There is no exact age to start or limit to what you discuss.
Here’s a basic example. Our heart keeps us alive.  It pumps blood around the body. Arteries take blood away from the heart to your fingers and toes. Then veins bring the blood back.  Our body needs special things called oxygen and sugar. The oxygen comes from the air we breath and sugar from the food we eat.  If the heart stops pumping, oxygen and sugar can’t get to the body and we die.
Hang on a cotton-pickin-minute!  Did you say the word DIE Dr Sam!?!
Yes.  News Flash. WE ALL DIE! (Unless you’re a marionette from Team America, but that’s another story). Don’t be scared to discuss death, what it means, especially its permanency.  A child who understands the basic life cycle will be much better placed to deal with the sudden death of a cherished grand parent, than one who has been shielded from reality.
Crack on team, harness your child’s sense of adventure and don’t be scared to explain where poo comes from.  Although I still have no bloody idea how to describe that one!
Dr Sam.