What They Want to Know Continued...

by Super User

Depending on your child’s maturity or prior exposure to these topics, you may want to look at answers in an older or younger age bracket.

 

Ages 8-11

Your child should know about:

·      Body changes and development during puberty

·      Emotional changes

·      Reproductive organs of both sexes

·      How conception and pregnancy occur

·      Differences and uniqueness of each person’s development

·      How genetics play an important part in determining rates and progression of development

·      Your values and expectations

 

Listed below are some questions your child may ask, or be thinking, and some ways that you can answer them.

 

DEVELOPMENT: PUBERTY

What is puberty?  What’s going to happen to me?

Puberty is a time of transition for the body.  It refers to the body’s change from childhood to adulthood, and the start of the body’s capability for reproduction.  During puberty, when your body is developing in some new ways, both boys and girls get taller and gain weight.  Body hair begins to grow in the pubic area, and under the arms, and becomes thicker on the legs.  Boys begin to grow facial hair and their voices deepen.  Girls begin to develop breasts and menstruation starts.  Your sweat glands also start to produce more moisture, making body odor a problem.  Personal hygiene, including using an underarm deodorant, becomes very important. 

When does puberty (the time the body begins to grow into adulthood) start?  Why have some of my friends started developing before me?

The ages for the onset of puberty differ, but it tends to begin in girls between ages 9-13 and in boys between ages 10-14.  There is no such thing as the right time to begin.  Everyone’s body is different and matures at its own pace.  Sometimes it can be hard to be either less or more physically mature than your friends.  But eventually, it all evens out, and the most important thing to remember is that every person deserves respect.  You are all in the processing of becoming an adult - which is a pretty awesome thing!

What causes the onset of puberty?

The pituitary gland, located in the brain, is responsible for releasing hormones, chemical messages that cause the body to develop in specific ways.  The pituitary gland is like a mini clock that operates on its own schedule, and so each person’s body develops at its own pace.  Heredity is an important factor in determining when you begin puberty.  Often you will develop around the same age that your parents did.

Why is my face breaking out?

Often, pimples or acne, occur during puberty.  There are several factors that contribute to this.  One is heredity; your parents pass on their skin types to you.  Another is bacteria that lives around hair follicles.  As hormone levels change, acne flare-ups also become more likely.  Dirt, oil, sweat, and friction or irritation can play a role in the appearance of acne, as can certain foods for food-sensitive people.  To deal with acne, wash your face gently twice a day.  Don’t pick at pimples, and wear only oil-free makeup.  Good hygiene is important, as is proper nutrition, and drinking plenty of water.  You may want to try an over-the-counter acne product, or, if those don’t seem to work, you can consult a dermatologist.

 

FOR GIRLS:

Why do some girls have bigger breasts than others?

Breast size is very much determined by heredity.  There is no “normal” breast size.  Most girls will be fully developed by about age 17.  It is also common for one breast to be slightly larger than the other.

How does the female body make eggs, and what does ovulation mean?

All females are born with millions of eggs, or ova, in each of two ovaries.  The eggs don’t begin to develop until puberty.  Each month after the start of menstruation, an ovary releases one mature egg in a process called ovulation.  If there are multiple ovulations, they will occur within a 24 hour time span.  Mature egg cells only live 12-24 hours.

  

What does “getting your period” mean?

A woman’s period, also known as menstruation starts during puberty and happens about once a month until she reaches menopause in her late 40’s or early 50’s when her periods gradually stop and she can no longer become pregnant.  A girl’s very first period, also called “menarche,” usually happens 1-1 ½ years after her breasts start developing.

Several things happen during your period.  Each month, a woman’s body releases an egg from one of its ovaries, and the lining of the woman’s uterus becomes thick and soft with blood and tissue.  If the egg is not fertilized by a man’s sperm, the body sheds the uterine lining through the vagina over the course of 3 to 7 days.  This shedding of blood is called your period.  When you first begin menstruating, your periods may be irregular.  This should not cause concern unless your period is particularly heavy or is accompanied by sharp pain.

Does menstrual blood and urine come out of the same opening?

No.  This is a common misconception.  During menstruation, fluid leaves the body through the vagina.  When you urinate, fluid leaves through the urethra, a very small opening in front of the vaginal opening.

How do I know what products to use for menstrual fluid?

There are a couple of options for how to protect against menstrual flow.  You may choose to use pads, or sanitary napkins, which are worn outside of the body and attach to your underwear.  Or you may choose to use tampons, which are worn inside the vagina and absorb menstrual flow.  Both pads and tampons have to be changed several times during the day and the used items thrown away or properly disposed of.  Talk to your mom, your family doctor, or a trusted adult if you aren’t sure what might be best for you.

Can I go swimming or exercise during my period?

You can do everything while menstruating that you can do while you are not having your period.  In fact, if you experience cramping, exercise often makes you feel better.  If you choose to wear a tampon you can even go swimming.

If I use a tampon, will I still be a virgin?

Yes.  A virgin is someone who has not had sexual intercourse.  Although there is a natural membrane called the hymen that is found over the vaginal opening, girls usually have a small natural opening that allows for menstrual fluid to leave the body and is large enough for a tampon to fit in.

Are tampons dangerous?

No, not if used properly.  Read the instructions on the tampon box before using them and make sure you use the lowest absorbency needed for your flow.  Change your tampon regularly.  Tampons cannot get “lost” in your body and do not cause cancer. 

What is PMS?

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms that some women experience right before their period begins each month.  These symptoms are caused by hormone changes and can include feeling bloated, cramps, tension, anxiety, sensitive skin, food cravings, headaches, tiredness, depression, mood swings, and outbursts of temper.  Symptoms vary for each person.  Proper diet and exercise, as well as some mild pain relievers can help relieve discomfort.

How can I stop having cramps?

The uterus is a muscle and when it releases the lining during menstruations, it contracts.  Some women experience abdominal pain because of these contractions.  Exercising and stretching can help relieve the tension.  Using a heating pad, or taking ibuprofen can also help ease pain.  If cramping is severe, or if no other methods seem to help, consult your physician.

 

FOR BOYS:

What happens to boys during puberty?

Between ages 10 and 14, the body begins releasing the male sex hormone testosterone, which causes physical changes like weight gain, hair growth, and the broadening of shoulders.  Hair will get thicker on the legs, and will begin to grow on the face, under the arms, in the pubic area, and sometimes on the chest.  The penis and testicles grow larger and sperm production begins.

What is an average penis size?

An average penis is between 4 to 6 inches in length when erect.  Penis size does not determine sexual satisfaction or fertility.

What are sperm, and can you see them?

Sperm are tiny cells that join with female egg cells to result in pregnancy.  They are produced by the millions in the testicles and are absorbed by the body if they are not ejaculated.  Sperm are so small that several million could fit on the head of a pin!  Boys begin producing sperm during puberty and will continue to produce them for the rest of their lives.

What are testicles?

Testicles are small, ball-shaped organs inside the scrotum, a sac-like structure of skin and muscle that hangs below the penis.  The testicles are where sperm develops.

What is a wet dream?

Also known as nocturnal emission, this is a natural part of growing up and happens when a man’s body releases semen during sleep.

Why do my nipples feel sore?

During puberty, some boys experience “breast budding” where one or both breasts grow a little and become sore.  This is completely normal and will usually disappear after a short while.

 

FRIENDS

Why do boys tease girls all the time?

You’re at the age where boys and girls are starting to notice each other more.  You probably still like hanging out just with your own gender, but boys are getting a little more curious about girls, just as girls are becoming more curious about boys.  Sometime preteens don’t quite know how to express this new interest, and it comes out in funny or hurtful ways, like teasing or gossiping.  These are not appropriate forms of behavior; we all want to be respected, and we should therefore respect every person around us, no matter what they look like or how they might behave.  This can be an awkward time for everyone, so we need to be careful what we say to each other. 

Why do I seem really sensitive around my friends?

You are changing from a child into an adult and all sorts of strange and exciting things are happening inside you.  Sometimes all these changes make us feel a little insecure and that can make us very sensitive to things that people say or do.  Also, as your hormones are changing, your moods might change a lot too.  Try to take good care of your body.  You’ll feel better physically, and feel better about yourself too.

I don’t feel like I have a lot of good friends.  How can I be more popular?

Popularity isn’t always based on the good qualities that we want in a close friend.  Often popularity is based on really superficial things, and by trying to be popular we might not really be “being ourselves.”  But you can make an effort to be someone that others like to be around.  Show interest in other people, and get involved in new clubs and activities.  Try smiling and learning people’s names.  Remember, you can be friendly even if others are not.  Focus on being a good person and a good friend; you’ll find that “being popular” isn’t so important.

I feel really ugly and awkward around my friends and sometimes get really sad and don’t know why.  Is something wrong with me?

No, nothing is wrong with you.  Everyone has feelings like that from time to time, especially around puberty and adolescence.  Your emotions might feel out of control sometimes because of hormonal changes.  These hormones can also affect how you see yourself.  One way to cope is to make sure you’re taking good care of your body by eating right and exercising.  Focus on the positive things about yourself, and develop your talents.  Try to make friends with people who like you for you, and not how you look.  By feeling more confident in yourself, you’ll probably start to feel more attractive and more appreciated.  If you still feel sad a lot of the time, talk to your parents or your school counselor about it. 

 

SEX and REPRODUCTION

What is sex?

First, find out why your child in interested in knowing.  You need to know what their frame of reference is in order to answer their true question. A possible answer could be:  Sometimes the word “sex” is used to describe if a person is a boy or a girl.  When people talk about sex as something that happens, they mean a physical act two people use to show they love each other and to create a family.  It is very private and wonderful.

How does a woman become pregnant?

When a man and woman have sex, the man ejaculates thousands of tiny sperm cells into the woman. If the woman’s body releases an egg from the ovaries at the right time, the sperm will try to find it.  When one sperm cell manages to find and enter the egg cell, it is the beginning of a new life, and the woman becomes pregnant. After 9 months, the new baby has grown so big that it is ready to be born.

Can you get pregnant from kissing?

No. Kissing is a way that people show they care about each other, but it’s not the way that a woman becomes pregnant. To make a baby, a man and a woman have to have sex, or make love, by joining their bodies, not just their mouths.

Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Yes. Anytime you have sex, you open up the possibility of becoming pregnant, whether it’s your first time or not.

How old do you have to be to get pregnant?

Once a girl has begun menstruating, her body is capable of becoming pregnant. When a boy begins going through puberty and begin sperm production, he is then technically able to make someone pregnant. The age at which each person becomes able to reproduce varies from around age 9 to 16 for girls and 10 to 17 for boys.

What is a virgin?

A virgin is someone who has never had sexual intercourse.

What is an erection?

The penis is made up of soft tissue that has blood vessels.  When the penis is stimulated the vessels fill up with blood, causing the penis to grow larger and stiffen.  Sometimes, especially during adolescence, this can happen even without stimulation.

What is ejaculation?

When the penis is stimulated, it often results in a climax, or orgasm, and a release of semen.  This is called ejaculation.

Will a guy get sick if he gets an erection and does not ejaculate?

No, this is a common misconception.

Ages 12-14

 

Your Child Should Know About:

·      How conception and pregnancy occur

·      Sexually transmitted infections/diseases

·      Consequences of an unintended pregnancy

·      The reality of sex and sexual issues, as opposed to myths and misinformation

·      Benefits of abstinence

·      Refusal skills

·      Social and peer pressures

·      Media influence on ideas about sex and love

·      Your values and expectations

 

DEVELOPMENT: ADOLESCENCE 

SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS

What is sex?

The term “sex” can be used to define whether a person is biologically male or female.  It also is a physical act that involves the stimulation of the sexual organs and an exchange of bodily fluids.  Most commonly, “sex” implies vaginal intercourse, where the erect penis of the male enters the vagina of the female.  Other activities are also sex, however.  For example, oral sex is sex.  It has similar consequences to vaginal sex, including STD transmission and emotional attachment.

Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Yes.  Anytime you have sex, you open up the possibility of becoming pregnant, whether it’s your first time or not.

Can you become pregnant without having sex?

Yes.  If semen is released anywhere close to the opening of the vagina, it is possible for some sperm to enter.  It only takes one sperm cell to cause a pregnancy.

Can you get pregnant if you have sex while you are on your period?

Becoming pregnant while on a menstrual period is rare but possible, especially if the woman has very short menstrual cycles.

What is oral sex?

Oral sex is mouth to genital contact.

What should you do if you don’t want to get pregnant?

Refraining from all sexual contact is the only way to ensure that you won’t get pregnant. 

Can you get pregnant during your period?

Yes.

What’s wrong with having sex if we are both virgins and really love each other, but know we’re not ready for marriage?

Just because you two may genuinely love each other, it does not mean that you should have sex.  Unless you are in a totally committed relationship, like marriage, you are not ready to handle the emotional and physical consequences and responsibilities of sex.  There are lots of other ways to show you truly love someone; if this relationship truly lasts, you’ll have plenty of time in the future to show your love through sex.

 

SOCIAL AND PEER PRESSURES

It seems like all the other guys are talking about sex, and they seem to think that if you’re cool, you’ll be able to get a girl to do it with you.

It sounds like those guys are just using girls to make them feel more popular or powerful.  That is NEVER what sex should be about, and any “respect” you might get from them if you choose to follow their example would be superficial and harmful.  Plus, most guys (and girls) your age aren’t having sex.  A lot of times, talk is just that - talk.

I’m the only one of my friends that hasn’t had sex.  I don’t really want to do it, but I feel left out because they seem to talk about it all the time.

You seem to already know that you don’t agree with their decision to have sex, and that’s great!  It can be difficult to stick to your opinion when everyone else seems to be doing something different.  Above all, don’t let their behavior change what you think is right. If they seem too preoccupied with sex to be able to enjoy other activities and topics, maybe you should think about expanding your friend circle.  Try to find some peers that you have a little more in common with; you don’t need to lose your old friends, but it will help you keep your commitment to abstinence if you also have friends who are supportive of your decision.

Some of my friends smoke and they want me to try it too.  What’s so bad with just seeing how it tastes?

Not only is smoking illegal if you are underage, it is extremely bad for your health.  Nicotine, found in cigarettes, is a drug that alters the way your body works and is very addictive.  Lots of people who starting out “just trying” cigarettes ended up becoming full-fledged smokers!  It can be easy to ignore the risks of smoking because often you can’t see the damage it’s doing for years.  But medical research shows that smoking causes cancer, heart disease and strokes.  Besides that, it can stain your teeth and nails, and make you breath, hair and clothes smell.

Ages 15-18

 

Your Child Should Know About:

·      Sexually transmitted infections/diseases

·      Consequences of an unintended pregnancy

·      Benefits of abstinence

·      The effect of premarital sex on one’s physical, emotional, social and psychological health

·      Dating guidelines

·      Difference between love and lust/infatuation

·      Relationship building skills

·      Date rape and sexual harassment

·      Media influence on ideas about sex and love

·      Your values and expectations

 

DEVELOPMENT: ADOLESCENCE

SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS

What is sex?

The term “sex” can be used to define whether a person is biologically male or female.  It also is a physical act that involves the stimulation of the sexual organs and an exchange of bodily fluids.  Most commonly, “sex” implies vaginal intercourse, where the erect penis of the male enters the vagina of the female.  Other activities are also sex, however.  For example, oral sex is sex.  It has similar consequences to vaginal sex, including STI transmission and emotional attachment.

What is oral sex?

Oral sex is mouth to genital stimulation.  Some other terms include: cunnilingus, going down, blow job, and “69”.

Is it harmful if a guy gets an erection, but does not ejaculate?

No - this a common misconception.  No one has ever become ill from not ejaculating or not having sex after becoming aroused.

Don’t guys need sex more than girls do?

No.  No one needs sex, the way we need food or shelter.  You can’t die from virginity or sexual abstinence.  Sometimes it seems like guys fixate on sex more than girls; the reality is that everyone’s sex drive is different, and is stronger at different points in their development.

The person I’m dating has been putting a lot of pressure on me lately to have sex, saying that if I really love him/her I’ll want to show it by having sex.  I don’t think I agree, but I don’t know what to do!

Love and sex are not interchangeable.  Love is a commitment to another person, and wanting the best for that person.  If a person truly loves you, that person would never make you do something that you were not comfortable doing.  And having sex outside of a truly loving, committed relationship will end up hurting, not helping the relationship.  If the person you are dating can not respect you and your feelings, maybe that person is not healthy to be around.

What if you only have sex with one person?  Is having sex safe as long as you’re not sleeping around?

There are always risks when you decide to become sexually active with someone, regardless of whether or not that person is your only intimate partner.  There is the risk of pregnancy, and of STI/STD transmission if either of you have ever been sexually intimate with another person.  There are also emotional risks.

 

SELF-IMAGE

It seems like at school everyone’s talking about sex: who’s doing it, and who isn’t.  It seems like everyone’s either having sex, or wishing that they were.  Am I the only one who’s waiting?

No.  You most definitely are not.  In fact, LESS than half of high school students have had sex!  Often, a lot of the “sex talk” is just that - talk.  We see sex in the media all the time, and often it colors people’s perception of what is important.  Pledges for abstinence are becoming more and more common as teens realized how much they are worth! 

 

GOAL SETTING

Alright - so I know I want to wait.  How do I tell the guy/girl I’m seeing that I won’t have sex with them?

This can be the trickiest part of a relationship, especially if you think the other person expects a certain level of physical intimacy.  Remember: no one has the right to expect anything physical from you, no matter what.  To avoid getting in dangerous waters with your significant other, you need to have clear communication about your boundaries and standards.  As difficult as it might be to start the conversation, you need to be upfront.  If things start to get physical, take that cue to tell the other person that you really like them a lot and you’re having a great time, but

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