Q. My 7-year-old son asked me if his mother and I have sex. What's a good way to respond? I was caught off guard.

A. In any awkward situation such as this one, remember to first unearth what your child already knows and why he's asking. Ask him, "What do you think sex is?"

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If he says something simple such as hugging and kissing, don't elaborate. "You don't want to give more information than they want," says Wendi Fischer, a psychologist in private practice in West Islip. "You don't want to give misinformation, but you don't want to give too much information." You could just say, 'Do we hug and kiss? Yes. You've seen us hug and kiss.' "

If they know more details, there's no generic answer, Fischer says. It's up to you how much information you want to share. Just be careful not to say anything that could be misconstrued. "Kids are very literal," Fischer says.

Always talk about sex in the context of love, Fischer advises. You could say, "Mommy and I love each other and, yes, we show affection in this way." If your child expresses disgust at the idea of sexual relations, as young kids are known to do, you should explain that sex is always voluntary and that each couple decides how they want to express caring and affection for each other. You can tell him that when he grows up and gets married, he and his spouse will decide how they want to express their love.