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"TALK TO ME" - Sexuality Education for Parents

Puberty and the Changing Adolescent

Goal

This workshopshould allow parents to better understand their sons/daughters and guide them through puberty.

Summary

By participating in the suggested activities, the parents will become more knowledgeable on the subject of puberty. They will reflect on the host of changes children go through during this important time and be better equipped to speak to their children about puberty.

Themes

Puberty, psychological changes, physiological changes.

Suggested activities

Exercises, discussions, exposés and a quiz.

Objective #1:
Throughout the workshop parents will become more knowledgeable about the psychological and physiological changes that occur during adolescence.

Specific objectives:
By the end of the workshop the parents should be able to:
1.1 Name the main psychological and physiological changes of pre-teens and teens;
1.2 Recognize the myths concerning adolescence.

Objective #2:
The parents will consider different aspects of puberty.

Specific objectives:
By the end of the workshop the parents should be able to:
2.1 Explain how they once experienced these changes as adolescents;
2.2 Identify some of the difficulties they may have with the changes occurring in their teenager.

Objective #3:
Parents will become more adept at answering questions their adolescents may have concerning puberty.

Specific objectives:
By the end of the workshop the parents should be able to:
3.1 Explain different aspects of having sexual intercourse for the first time;
3.2 Discuss physiological, psychological, emotional and other changes inherent to puberty.

Procedure

  1. "Icebreaker" and facilitator's introduction
    The facilitator introduces him/herself and presents the subject matter - puberty. He/she explains that the period marking the passage from childhood to adolescence occurs at the approximate age of 11 to 12 years old and is accompanied by physiological, psychological and emotional changes. The facilitator goes on to define the goals and objectives of the workshop while specifying that it is limited by its general-information aspect; some related subjects, such as sexual orientation, reproduction and wet dreams to name just a few, cannot be dealt with extensively under the circumstances. However, all participants seeking more information on specific subjects will be given a list of references on puberty.

    The facilitator then asks the parents to introduce themselves. In order to lighten the exercise he/she asks them to decide which body part they believe best represents them. The facilitator gives some examples and explains the link between this exercise and the theme of the workshop:

    Example:

    • I identify with my hands because they are agile, very practical and always moving. They are like me in that they just don't stop;
    • I identify with my eyes because they are very alert and curious;
    • I identify with my legs because they allow me to run and I feel like I'm always running.

    Length: 10 minutes
    Purpose: Introduction and breaking the ice
    Facilitator's role:

    • Showing interest in and enthusiasm for the subject
    • Inviting the parents to express themselves by offering some examples

    Required material:

    • List of references on puberty
  2. Physiological and psychological changes during puberty
    The facilitator asks the participants to split into groups of two or three. Each group is given a copy of annex #1 and must complete it by writing down the main characteristics of adolescence (physiological as well as psychological) and specifying which ones apply to males, females or both.

    The facilitator recaps and completes the information with the help of annex #2. He/she ensues with a discussion based on some of the following questions:

    • Which one of these changes have you experienced yourself?
    • How did you experience these changes at the time?
    • Do you have any related anecdotes?

    The parents are asked to reflect on the most memorable changes from that time of their life and to share them with the rest of the group should they be inclined to do so.

    Length: 20 minutes
    Corresponding objectives: 1.1 - 1.2
    Facilitator's role:

    • Remaining silent during the exercise
    • Clearly explaining the guidelines
    • Creating an atmosphere of trust conducive to sharing the experiences
    • Distributing annex #1

    Required material:

  3. Discussion on puberty
    The facilitator begins a discussion on attitudes (questions, concerns) related to puberty based on some of the following questions:

    • What changes is your adolescent presently going through?
    • How does he/she seem to cope?
    • How do you feel about the difficulties your teenager is presently experiencing?
    • Did you experience the same difficulties during adolescence?
    • What would you have needed most at the time?
    • What can you do to help him/her or to appease his/her concerns?
    • How do you feel about the impending task of discussing puberty with your adolescent?
    • Other.

    The facilitator feeds the discussion with the help of answers provided in annex #3 and asks the parents to complete the information by adding some of their own examples.

    Length: 10 minutes
    Corresponding objectives: 2.1 - 2.2
    Facilitator's role:

    • Ensuring the participation of all parents

    Required material:


    BREAK: 10 MINUTES


  4. Quiz on puberty
    The facilitator distributes a questionnaire (annex #4) to all participants and asks them to complete it. He/she then proceeds to correct it with the help of annex #5. The facilitator invites the parents to ask questions regarding every statement and responds to each one. He/she specifically calls their attention to certain statements (i.e. #8, #14, #25, #29, #30) which represent typical myths. The negative impact of these stereotypes may adversely affect any well-founded comprehension of adolescence and make discussions more difficult. The parents are asked to identify any additional myths they can think of.

    Length: 15 minutes
    Corresponding objectives: 1.1 - 1.2
    Facilitator's role:

    • Remaining silent during the exercise
    • Clearly answering questions
    • Suggesting that the participants split into groups of two or three should they so desire
    • Offering relevant examples to better illustrate the content
    • Distributing annex #4

    Required material:

  5. The first experience of sexual intercourse
    The facilitator reviews the beginning of the workshop to clarify the following activity. He/she explains that adolescence is a time of many "firsts", with the first experience of sexual intercourse topping the list as far as adolescent concerns go. In order to ease into a discussion on the subject the facilitator distributes a copy of annex #6 and asks the parents to select those elements they consider the main motivations behind teenagers having sexual intercourse for the first time.

    He/she then opens a discussion based on the following questions:

    • Which motivations do you consider positive or valid among those you selected?
    • According to you, which questions or concerns about the "first time" are most likely to be on adolescents' minds?
    • How does the first experience of sexual intercourse usually play itself out?
    • What would you like to tell your adolescent about their "first time"?

    The facilitator offers some insight into the circumstances of one's first sexual intercourse experience and points out that it is not ordinarily planned.

    • It usually happens under unforeseen circumstances;
    • The adolescents are often under the influence of drugs and alcohol;
    • They are not aware of their own fertility;
    • They are driven by various fears (fear of seeing a gynaecologist, of actually having to buy condoms, etc.);
    • They are not well informed about sexuality;
    • They deal with a lot of peer pressure.

    The facilitator continues by offering examples of some of the fears and concerns the adolescents may have concerning sexual intercourse:

    Fear of:

    • Not pleasing
    • Being compared
    • Disappointing the other person
    • Coming across as "easy"
    • Being disappointed
    • Intimacy
    • What others may think
    • Showing oneself naked in front of the other
    • Regret
    • Becoming infected with STIs
    • Pregnancy
    • Rumours
    • Not getting an erection or reaching orgasm
    • Being judged, criticized or ridiculed
    • Pain
    • Being caught by one's parents
    • Not knowing what to do
    • Other.

    Length: 20 minutes
    Corresponding objective: 3.1
    Facilitator's role:

    • Remaining silent during the written exercise
    • Having become familiar with the web sites listed as references
    • Offering relevant examples to better illustrate the content
    • Distributing annex #6

    Required material:

    • Annex #6
    • List of references on puberty
    • Pens
  6. Role-playing
    The facilitator suggests a role-playing exercise related to the subject at hand. Using annex #7, he/she asks one participant to play the role of the parent and the other to play the role of the adolescent for every given situation. He/she ends the exercise by letting the participants exchange ideas and opinions about the various scenarios.

    Length: 20 minutes
    Corresponding objective: 3.2
    Facilitator's role:

    • Explaining the relevance and the usefulness of role-playing
    • Clearly explaining each participant's role
    • Encouraging all parents to participate

    Required material:

  7. Assignment
    The facilitator suggests that the parents take a moment to examine the content of the listed web sites. They may also add them to their bookmarks for easy reference. They may then ask their adolescent to search the sites with them in order to discuss them.

    Variation for parents without access to the Internet: The facilitator gives these parents fact sheets on puberty printed off the Internet. The participants can then leaf through them and discuss them with their adolescent.

    Length: 5 minutes
    Purpose: Conclusion
    Facilitator's role:

    • Clearly explaining the assignment as well as its relevance and usefulness
    • Encouraging parents to complete the assignment

    Required material:

    • List of references on puberty

Oral evaluation

The facilitator wraps up with some of the following questions:

  • How did you feel throughout this workshop?
  • What was your specific interest in this workshop?
  • What have you learned?
  • How will what you learned help you? Please tell me about it?

Length: 5 minutes
Facilitator's role:

  • Encouraging the parents to respond
  • Noting comments to improve future workshops

Required material:

  • None

Written evaluation

The facilitator distributes the written evaluation to the participants (annex #8).

Length: 5 minutes
Facilitator's role:

  • Encouraging the participants to fill out the evaluation
  • Distributing annex #8

Required material:

Annex #1

Physiological and psychological changes during puberty
  Females Males Both

Physiological Changes

     

Psychological Changes

     

Annex #2

Physical Changes During Puberty

  • The body changes that are noticed during puberty are triggered by hormones that are released from certain endocrine glands.
  • The important gland is the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. This gland stimulates hormone production in other glands.
  • In boys, the testicles start to produce the hormone testosterone, the male sex hormone.
  • In girls, the ovaries produce oestrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormone.
  • The pituitary gland also manufactures a hormone that makes the bones and muscles grow rapidly.
  • The adrenal glands, situated above the kidneys, produce additional sex hormones, including androgens. Boys produce more androgens than girls. The hormones from these glands cause a variety of physical changes that happen gradually.

What the adolescent needs to know

  • Right now you are changing. You notice changes in your body and also in your feelings. You are moving away from childhood, on your way to becoming an adult. All these changes are normal.
  • This in-between stage is called puberty. It is a process that takes time, a different amount of time for every person. Sometimes it makes you feel awkward, confused, uncomfortable. At other times, you feel excited and independent.
  • Puberty starts between the ages of 9 and 16. You may be growing and developing faster than your friends, or more slowly. This is because you have your own internal clock. It is part of what makes you an individual. These differences are normal. Your rate of growth is influenced by heredity, by your environment and by your sex. Your growth won't be completed until you are 18 to 22 years of age.
  • You may or may not engage in self-pleasuring.
  • Puberty has an impact on you on various levels: physical, emotional and sexual.

Changes for Boys

  • As they get older increased testosterone made by testicles (pituitary gland)
  • Testosterone starts to work (growth spurts)
  • Shoulders and chest begin to broaden and voice gets deeper
  • Pubic, underarm, chest and facial hair growth
  • Sex organs develop - your penis and testicles will get bigger (different sizes), testicles produce sperm (each ml of semen contains 120 million spermatozoa)
  • Wet dreams
  • Erections
  • Acne and increased perspiration
  • Changes start around age 10, but it depends on the individual
  • Gradual changes and not at the same time

Changes for Girls

  • Pituitary gland causes ovaries to produce hormones (oestrogen)
  • Estrogen starts to work (growth spurts)
  • Hips will broaden
  • Pubic and underarm hair growth
  • Breasts are developing (shapes and sizes differ)
  • Menstruation begins (ovaries contain thousands of cells - born with these)
  • Acne and increased perspiration

Emotional Changes During Puberty

Sense of Identity - The pubertal boy or girl is trying to find out the answer to the question, "Who am I?". Friendships outside the home are developed. The interests of the peer group often become more important than those of his/her family. There is often a struggle to become more independent of parents and family.

Future - Oftentimes the pre-teen has no idea what the future holds for him or her. It is sometimes hard to imagine what he/she might be doing next week, never mind the rest of his/her life.

Pressure - The peer group often sets the standards for appropriate dress, language and behaviour. Oftentimes, the behaviour of the peer group is different than that expected by parents of their son or daughter. This situation can create conflict.

Confusion - Sometimes the pre-teen swings between wanting to be an independent teenager and wanting to be a dependent child. His/her body may be physically changing to resemble that of a young adult, but oftentimes a young boy or girl may not be emotionally prepared for the passage from childhood to adolescence.

Complicated Decisions - At the same time that the changes of puberty are occurring, the pre-teen may be making such complicated decisions as choosing courses for a particular career or asking someone of the opposite sex to go to the school dance.

Mood Swings - Because of fluctuations in hormone levels, the accompanying physical changes, a changing self-concept, and the usual stresses of the pre-teen years, mood swings may occur. Because these mood swings may not have been previously apparent, parents and families of pre-teens may have to be more supportive and understanding at this time.

Self-consciousness - Pre-pubertal girls usually develop physically before boys. Young girls may be self-conscious about their breasts and menstrual periods. Both sexes may be reluctant to let anyone see them without their clothes. Pubertal children develop at different rates. Girls take growth spurts before boys which may cause them to be self-conscious when around shorter boys. They will be reassured to know that the differences are not so obvious in the later teen years.

Sexual Desires - With the physical changes of puberty, there are new sexual feelings and interests which develop. Pre-teens fantasize about relationships with older members of the opposite sex - usually movie stars, rock idols, a teacher, someone's older brother or sister. Parents may find 'girlie' magazines in their sons' rooms. Crushes are numerous. It is important that pre-teens know the difference between infatuation and love. They are starting to develop dating skills as well, and often feel awkward when around members of the opposite sex.

Annex #3

Answers to the discussion on puberty

How do you feel about the impending task of discussing puberty with your adolescent?
Discomfort, uncertainty, embarrassment, shyness, disinterest, sadness or nostalgia (about your adolescent now becoming an adult), eagerness, feeling of incompetence or not measuring up, lack of confidence, etc.

It is possible that you feel all of the above as you attempt to discuss changes during puberty with your adolescent. You may feel embarrassed to explain some of the changes, to use the correct terminology, etc. Try to stay aware of these emotions and do not hesitate to give them a voice when speaking to your teenager, should the need arise.

What changes is your adolescent presently going through?
Breast growth, beginning of the menstrual cycle, first relationship, first official date, obvious physical changes, pilosity (hair growth), mood swings, increasing importance of body hygiene and body image, etc. (see annex #2).

Your adolescent may be having trouble with the physiological as well as the psychological changes, and may be living a range of emotions him/herself. It is important that you try to know what he/she is feeling in order to be able to accompany him/her throughout the journey.

What can you do to help him/her or to appease his/her concerns?
You could:

  • Question him/her about his/her impressions, concerns and fears;
  • Give him/her as much information on puberty as possible while ensuring that the information is not restricted to the physical changes alone;
  • Reassure him/her;
  • Speak to him/her about your own experiences (with humour);
  • Refer him/her to the appropriate resources;
  • Listen;
  • Put some information into perspective;
  • Offer reality-checks;
  • Other.

Annex #4

Puberty: True and False Sheet

Mark statements as True or False:
  True False
1. Girls reach puberty at an earlier age than boys    
2. During puberty the reproductive organs have more specific purposes    
3. During puberty the internal genital organs become independent and are not connected to the brain    
4. Pilosity (body and facial hair) develops strongly among adolescents ages 12 and up    
5. The growth rate varies little among healthy adolescents    
6. Pilosity (body and facial hair) is directly related to the adolescent's psychological maturity    
7. The physiological changes are much more obvious among boys than girls    
8. The diet of adolescents is the primary cause of physiological changes occurring during puberty    
9. The sexual hormones are as active during childhood as they are during adolescence    
10. Increased perspiration is a sign of puberty    
11. Some people never go through puberty (such as mentally challenged individuals)    
12. Hormonal changes have no impact on moods    
13. The physical changes are more difficult to cope with than the psychological ones    
14. Adolescence is synonymous with crisis    
15. Most adolescents will have specific concerns by the time they reach puberty    
16. The physiological and biological changes are the most visible, obvious and embarrassing for most adolescents    
17. It is often in adolescence that young people begin asking themselves questions    
18. An adolescent is incapable of seeing past the present and of picturing him/herself in the future    
19. Adolescents tend to think of themselves as the centre of the universe    
20. Adolescents need to affirm themselves less and less    
21. Adolescents often need to distance themselves from their parents    
22. Adolescence is often marked by changes in character    
23. Adolescence is a period which opens up new options    
24. Adolescence is a typical time for questioning and adapting to the adult world    
25. Adolescence is a time of experimentation    
26. Adolescence is marked by behavioural and relationship changes    
27. Emotions are easier to control during adolescence    
28. The adolescent experiences sexual desires more intensely    
29. Adolescents don't care about what others may think of them    
30. Adolescents are always sure of themselves    

Annex #5

Puberty: True and False Answer Sheet
  True False
1. Girls reach puberty at an earlier age than boys  
2. During puberty the reproductive organs have more specific purposes  
3. During puberty the internal genital organs become independent and are not connected to the brain  
4. Pilosity (body and facial hair) develops strongly among adolescents ages 12 and up  
5. The growth rate varies little among healthy adolescents  
6. Pilosity (body and facial hair) is directly related to the adolescent's psychological maturity  
7. The physiological changes are much more obvious among boys than girls  
8. The diet of adolescents is the primary cause of physiological changes occurring during puberty  
9. The sexual hormones are as active during childhood as they are during adolescence  
10. Increased perspiration is a sign of puberty  
11. Some people never go through puberty (such as mentally challenged individuals)  
12. Hormonal changes have no impact on moods  
13. The physical changes are more difficult to cope with than the psychological ones  
14. Adolescence is synonymous with crisis  
15. Most adolescents will have specific concerns by the time they reach puberty  
16. The physiological and biological changes are the most visible, obvious and embarrassing for most adolescents  
17. It is often in adolescence that young people begin asking themselves questions  
18. An adolescent is incapable of seeing past the present and of picturing him/herself in the future  
19. Adolescents tend to think of themselves as the centre of the universe  
20. Adolescents need to affirm themselves less and less  
21. Adolescents often need to distance themselves from their parents  
22. Adolescence is often marked by changes in character  
23. Adolescence is a period which opens up new options  
24. Adolescence is a typical time for questioning and adapting to the adult world  
25. Adolescence is a time of experimentation  
26. Adolescence is marked by behavioural and relationship changes  
27. Emotions are easier to control during adolescence  
28. The adolescent experiences sexual desires more intensely  
29. Adolescents don't care about what others may think of them  
30. Adolescents are always sure of themselves  

Annex #6

  • Feeling equal to peers
  • Discovering new sensations
  • Simple curiosity
  • Being accepted by the group
  • Attracting attention
  • Giving in to our bodies? urges
  • Feeling truly ready
  • Avoiding ridicule
  • Showing a partner that we love him/her
  • Forming an opinion rather than listening to hearsay
  • Relaxing
  • Looking for sexual pleasure
  • Communicating with a partner
  • Finding a partner beautiful and wanting him/her
  • Confirmation of masculinity/femininity
  • Showing and searching for affection
  • Showing and/or receiving tenderness
  • Tenderness, affection, love
  • Obligation
  • Pleasing the other
  • Experiencing intimacy
  • Confirmation of seduction abilities
  • Making the relationship official
  • Rebelling against authority, parents and society
  • Avoiding anger or other negative emotions
  • Keeping a partner
  • Avoiding boredom
  • Giving in to peer pressure or partner pressure and being incapable of saying no
  • Being ?cool?
  • Becoming part of the gang and being ?just like? them
  • Being somebody, feeling valued and important
  • Feeling grown up, going through a rite of passage
  • Being curious, living the adventure
  • Imitating media-produced models
  • Avoiding trouble at home
  • Affirming oneself through sexuality
  • Affirming oneself by having a child
  • Being in love, wanting to be in love, proving love to the other
  • Etc.

Annex #7

Role-playing

Scenario #1
You notice that your daughter's body is changing. She is starting to grow breasts. She seems uncomfortable and tries to cover it up with baggy clothes.

  • How do you react to this change?
  • What do you say to her?
  • How do you initiate a dialogue?
  • How do you reassure her?

Scenario #2
While changing your twelve-year-old son's bed sheets you notice traces of sperm.

  • How do you react to this situation?
  • What do you say to him?
  • How do you initiate a dialogue?
  • How do you reassure him?

Scenario #3
Your daughter refuses to take off her shirt when going for a swim and no longer wears her nicest sleeveless T-shirts. You sense that she is trying to hide the hair beginning to grow under her armpits.

  • How do you react to this behaviour?
  • What do you say to her?
  • How do you initiate a dialogue?
  • How do you reassure her?
  • How do you intervene?

Scenario #4
Your son suddenly feels like inviting a girl over and seems very excited and embarrassed when you mention her name.

  • How do you react to this change in attitude?
  • What do you say to him?
  • How do you initiate a dialogue?
  • How will you intervene?

Scenario #5
Your son's voice is beginning to change and his sisters are teasing him. He seems uncomfortable and starts isolating himself more and more.

  • How do you react to this attitude?
  • What do you say to him?
  • How do you initiate a dialogue?
  • How will you intervene?
  • What do you say to his sisters?

Annex #8

Please complete the following questions:

  1. What is one thing you learned about _______________that you did not know before?
  2. What questions or concerns do you still have about _______________?
  3. Will you do anything differently as a result of learning about ____________?

    Yes _____ No _____

    Please tell me about it:

  4. I'd like to tell the facilitator:

Web site References

Puberty

  • http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/
    Planned Parenthood's web site. Guides for parents on human sexuality, the first trip to the gynaecologist, etc.
  • http://www.ualberta.ca/HEALTHINFO/
    " It's Your Call : Making Sexual Decisions". Interactive program which assists the user in assessing values, gathering information, and applying the information within the guidelines of their own values so as to make healthy sexual decisions. Information on abstinence is included as an important component.
  • http://www.region.peel.on.ca/health/commhlth/parov1yr/develop.htm
    Region of Peel's web site. "Raising Sexually Healthy Children - Sexual Development: What to expect".
  • http://www.health.gov.ab.ca/public/growing.pdf
  • http://www.health.gov.ab.ca/public/growing.html
    rowing Up OK! This booklet provides general information about puberty (menstruation, self pleasuring, wet dreams, etc.). Alberta Health and Wellness Publication.

Web sites for youth

  • http://www.iwannaknow.org/
    I Wanna Know. ASHA's site for teenagers. Focuses on sexual health. FAQs on sexuality, chats, games and information on STIs, relationships and condom use.
  • http://www.sxetc.org/
    A teen-produced web site that talks about love, sex, abstinence, contraception, AIDS, STIs, drugs, drinking, violence and health.