What was once a simple puberty lesson at the end of 5th grade, now seems to be evolving into a talk with more advanced topics of sexuality. This means that your kids are going to come home with questions for you to explain.
Hopefully, they will ask you, but many of them will simply remain confused and embarrassed to ask what they don’t understand.
I always encourage parents to be proactive; find out what is being taught to your child during their puberty lesson or unit. Then, be prepared to answer their questions with an age-appropriate response.
Recognize the Difference
There is a difference in content between an explanation about reproduction versus one about sexuality. The reproduction talk is more straight-forward and provides a solid foundation of information that can lead to great talks about sexuality. I think this is where you want to begin.
Here is an illustration from my book I’m a Boy Hormones! which I use all the time when teaching boys in early puberty (about 5th grade). This explanation is great for boys and girls.
- Notice that lots of sperm enter through the vagina (about 250 million). If you think your child is mature enough and ready, you can go on to explain that sexual intercourse is the way that sperm get inside the vagina.
- Lots of sperm die along the way, but about 3000 make it into the uterus.
- Only a couple of dozen sperm finally arrive in the fallopian tube to look for an egg.
- If there is an egg waiting in the fallopian tube, only one sperm wins the race and enters the egg. This is called fertilization.
Normally one egg is released each month (during the menstrual cycle) from one of the ovaries. The egg can only live for less than one day in the fallopian tube. If a sperm does not arrive in that period of time, the egg slowly continues along the fallopian tube and disappears in the uterus. But if a sperm does join with the egg (fertilization), then a baby begins to form. The fertilized egg travels to the uterus and the baby continues to grow inside the uterus.
If your 5th grader can understand this information, it will be so much easier for you to answer other questions they have.
They likely will not be tested on the content given to them in school and so the only way to make sure they understand important concepts is for you to explore this information with them. They might resist, but be clever and think of a way to inspire them to learn from you. If it is helpful, show them the illustration and the information about fertilization.
There will be lots of opportunities in the next few years to build a great foundation of knowledge for them. It doesn’t need to happen in one day. If you ask a few questions after their school lesson, they will know that this is something you care about and that you want to be part of the discussion with them.
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