Parent Buzz Newsletter - Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
The Parent Buzz
A Newsletter for Parents from Let's Be Honest
January 2009 - Issue 13
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Welcome to The Parent Buzz, an e-newsletter designed especially for parents and caregivers of middle school-aged children by Let's Be Honest, the Parent Education program of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

In recent parent workshops, we've been getting a lot of questions from parents regarding how they can explain to their youth the different ways that people can have children, other than sexual intercourse (i.e. artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, adoption.) Perhaps children have heard these terms, or want to know more about how a friend was born or how they themselves were born!

One of the books we use in our Let's Be Honest program is It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. It offers young people the real information they need to make responsible decisions that can help them stay healthy as they approach and experience puberty and adolescence. The following is a useful excerpt that offers specific language that parents can use when faced with the questions about this topic. Remember, it is never too late to have ongoing conversations with your child about sex and sexuality topics! (This discussion could take place after a young person has learned more from their parent about the facts of reproduction and the development of a pregnancy. By the age of 7 or 8, most children are capable of understanding the mechanics and are developmentally prepared to handle the information. By the age of 9 or 10, most children are capable of understanding the alternate methods.)

"Sometimes people want to have a baby but cannot have one because their egg and sperm are not able to unite. Fortunately, there are ways other than sexual intercourse to have a baby. There can be many different reasons why an egg cell and a sperm cell are not able to unite, such as a female's ovaries not releasing an egg each month, an egg being unable to travel through the Fallopian tubes, too few sperm traveling to the egg, or the sperm being too weak to travel to the egg. However, with the help of a doctor, a female's egg can be fertilized by a male's sperm and a pregnancy can begin.

An egg can be taken out of one of the ovaries by a doctor and put into a small glass dish filled with fluid along with sperm that have been ejaculated. After the egg has been fertilized by one of the sperm in the dish, the egg is returned to the uterus, and a pregnancy can begin. This method of starting a pregnancy is called in vitro fertilization. In vitro are the Latin words for in a glass.

When there are not enough sperm, or not enough sperm strong enough to swim to the egg, a doctor can place the male's ejaculated sperm in the female's vagina or uterus with a syringe. In the uterus, the sperm have a shorter distance to swim and a better chance of uniting with an egg in one of the Fallopian tubes. Starting a pregnancy in this way is called artificial insemination - even though there is nothing artificial or fake about the egg and sperm or the uniting of the egg and sperm. Inseminate means to put a seed in, in other words, to make pregnant.

Sometimes, if a male becomes very sick, the medication he needs to become well may lessen the number of sperm that he is able to make. Before the male takes the medication, his ejaculated sperm can be placed in a sperm bank - a medical laboratory - to be frozen and stored for up to ten or fifteen years. It can be used later to conceive a baby by artificial insemination.

There are people who are not able to conceive a baby at all - by sexual intercourse, by in vitro fertilization, by artificial insemination or by freezing sperm. However, they can start a family by adopting a baby or child. Some people who can conceive a baby also choose to adopt children. Adoption means that a family will bring another family's baby or child into their family and raise that child as their very own. An adopted child becomes a member of his or her new family. Adoption usually occurs when a parent or parents who are unable to take care of their newborn baby or child decide to have someone else care for, bring up, and love their baby or child. It is a legal act. This means that the child's birth parent or parents sign a paper in front of a lawyer or judge that says that they are giving the child to a parent or parents who want to and are able to take care of the child.

There are many ways to have a baby and create a family. But no matter how people have a child, caring for and loving one can be a wonderful and amazing experience!"

Excerpt from It's Perfectly Normal, Robie Harris, 2004.
What does your eighth grader need to know about contraception?

Middle school children may begin to go out together or have boyfriends or girlfriends. Many will begin kissing and making out. Some will begin more involved sexual behaviors. Talk to them - find out if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Set limits on their dating and their time alone. Tell them abstinence from sexual intercourse is best for teenagers their age. Be sure they know to come to you if they are even thinking about having intercourse. Be sure they know about contraception and condoms and that intercourse must be protected against pregnancy and infections. Helping your children make good decisions when they begin dating sets the stage for making healthy choices later in life.

Source: SIECUS Radio Series: Take a Minute to Talk about Sexuality with Your Kids
In the book THIRD BASE AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE: What Your Kids are Learning About Sex Today - and How To Teach Them to Become Sexually Healthy Adults, 2007, Logan Levkoff, M.S., empowers and encourages parents to start being honest with their children about sexuality. She stresses that if parents don't supply children with the information they need, they will acquire it from their peers, the media, or other potentially misinformed, misleading, or biased sources. The book tackles all the tough topics, including (but not limited to) masturbation, oral sex, pornography, how technology is changing the way youth think about themselves and their sexuality - and offers tips and talking points for tackling these issues in one's own home. The author brings parents up to date on the world that their kids are living in: what their slang means, what myths and stereotypes they are learning from friends, and how pop culture is affecting how they make decisions.

Don't forget to visit our website for helpful tips, information about workshops, and much more. Don't miss an opportunity to be the primary sexuality educator for your children. Need help? Call our Parent Education Team at (617) 616-1658.

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Parent Education
Planned Parenthood League of MA

phone: (617) 616-1658
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