WARNING: This article contains explicit information inappropriate for young readers.
The following is meant to be a guide to provide parents with information that will help them prepare for their first “birds and bees” chat. Realize that each new bit of information will likely raise even more questions. The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of the chat is to open a door for communication.
Our children will learn these things, whether they learn them from social media, their friends, or from us. As parents, the best we can do is offer them honesty and continued emotional support. These conversations are awkward, but as adults we understand the need to surmount our own discomfort to prepare our children for the road ahead. Remember to let them know that it’s okay if they feel “weird” talking about these things. That’s normal. The most important thing we can do as parents is keep the door open.
First, a bit of information to help explain some basic differences between a girl and a boy, and why they are significant.
The female reproductive system
** Vagina ** The female genital organ. Girls have an area between their legs called a vagina.
** Period ** Every month, the female body does some spring cleaning. It’s perfectly normal, and nothing to be afraid of. For a few days, you’ll have a tummy ache. These cramps feel kind of like when you need to poo. You might also feel cranky, or sad. That feeling will pass in a day or two. You’ll also experience some bleeding from the vagina, heaviest on the first day, and gradually subsiding by the fifth day. There are two options for dealing with the blood that flows every month; pads and tampons. The purpose of a menstrual cycle, or period, is to get the body ready to make a baby.
The male reproductive system
** Penis ** The male genital organ. Boys have an organ between their legs called a penis.
** Sperm ** Sperm is like a seed. When you plant a seed, and take care of it, a plant grows. Sperm is a seed that makes a baby. When a penis is erect (hard), and is stimulated until orgasm, it will release sperm.
As I mentioned previously, some of this information will have undoubtedly raised additional questions. The following is meant to help navigate those questions.
** Intercourse ** What is it? Sexual contact between individuals. Who does it? Typically, people who are attracted to each other. Ideally, when they love each other. Why do people have sex? Because they want to be close to each other, give each other pleasure, and/or make a baby. Is it normal? If it is done between consenting (meaning they understand and want to) adults, yes. Under no circumstances is it okay for anyone to have any type of sexual relationship with a child. If this happens to you, or someone you know, tell an adult you trust as soon as possible. Is it safe? With proper planning, yes. A man can wear a condom, which is like a rubber glove for his penis. It helps to prevent most diseases that are transmitted sexually. To ensure physical safety, it is very important to get to know a possible sexual partner very well before spending any time together alone.
** Conception ** What is it? This happens when a man and a woman have sex, his sperm enters her body and “swims” to her egg. When the sperm fertilizes the egg, a baby is formed.
** Pregnancy ** Is a nine month cycle, that ends in a woman giving birth to a baby by pushing it from her vagina. Kind of like pooing. What if I don’t want to have a baby? Abstinence means not having sex at all. No sex, no baby. A condom can be worn by a man to help prevent pregnancy. Mutual masturbation with a sexual partner could be considered an option. Birth control medications are also available for women. Long term adverse health affects should be taken into consideration when deciding which form of birth control, if any, is preferred.
** Masturbation ** What is it? Manual (using a hand or fingers) stimulation (massage) of the genital organs (vagina or penis). Who does it? Nearly everyone. Why do people masturbate? Because it feels good, and can release stress. If you do not have a sexual partner (ideally a spouse), masturbation is a good substitute for sexual intercourse. Is it normal? Masturbation is a perfectly normal, but intensely private, act. For girls, it is especially useful to relieve tension that is built up from excessive hormones (which cause moodiness) released during the menstrual cycle. For boys, it is useful to ease the discomfort of an erection, if it is practical to do so when one arises. It is also a good way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Is it safe? As with anything else, it is if done properly. For girls, never insert anything into a vagina that isn’t specifically made for it. For boys, never put a penis into anything that isn’t specifically made for it.
As a mother of a pre-teen, I’m getting ready to have this conversation myself. To this day, I have a close and open relationship with my own mother. Being able to turn to her for advice when I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone else has been invaluable. I hope to have a similar relationship with my own children, and I hope I’ve helped other parents, in some small way, to do the same with their children.
This last section is a list of definitions that I based my article upon. I have included them here so that they may be used by parents having the talk in their own way. Scroll past the definitions for sources of information used in the writing of this article.
Vagina: the muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women and most female mammals.
Period: the process in a woman of discharging blood and other materials from the lining of the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month from puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy.
Penis: the male genital organ of higher vertebrates, carrying the duct for the transfer of sperm during copulation. In humans and most other mammals, it consists largely of erectile tissue and serves also for the elimination of urine.
Sperm: the mature motile male sex cell of an animal, by which the ovum is fertilized, typically having a compact head and one or more long flagella for swimming.
Sexual Intercourse: sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, esp. the insertion of a man’s erect penis into a woman’s vagina, typically culminating in orgasm and the ejaculation of semen.
Sexual Stimulation: Sexual stimulation is any stimulus (including, but not limited to, bodily contact) that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and leads to ejaculation and/or orgasm.
Orgasm: a climax of sexual excitement, characterized by feelings of pleasure centered in the genitals.
Conception: the action of conceiving a child or of a child being conceived.
Pregnancy: the condition or period of being pregnant.
Masturbation: manual stimulation of the genital organs (of yourself or another) for sexual pleasure.
For more information, please see the following articles. (note: clicking the link will open a different website in a new window.)
Talking to Your Child About Puberty via kidshealth.org
Talking to Kids About Sex and Sexuality via plannedparenthood.org
Talking to Your Kids About Sex via WebMD