Parent Buzz Newsletter - Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts

The Parent Buzz
An e-newsletter for parents from Let's Be Honest                                   April 2011   Issue 25

In This Issue
Human Sexuality: what Children Should Know and When They Should Know It
Get Real Preliminary Results are Promising!
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Human Sexuality:

What Children Should Know and When They Should Know It


For children to make healthy and safe choices regarding sexuality throughout their lives, they must be encouraged to take good care of their bodies, ask parents and other trusted adults for information, and learn to respect themselves and other people.  Understanding one's sexuality is a lifelong process.  While it is understood that each child is unique in their social, emotional, physical, and sexual development, according to childhood development experts, the following is a guidepost to help parents decide when a discussion of concepts about sexuality and reproduction is age-appropriate.  Recent studies show that children who have frequent and open conversations with their parents about sex and sexuality have closer relationships with their parents and are more likely to make responsible decisions about sex.  It is a parent's right and responsibility to be the primary sexuality educator of their child - remember, it's not a one-time talk, it's an 18-year conversation!


By age nine, children should:


  • use correct terms for all sexual body parts, including the reproductive organs;
  • be able to understand and identify the concepts of "maleness" and "femaleness";
  • understand that their bodies belong to themselves and that they have a right to say "no" to unwanted touch;
  • know where babies come from, how they "get in" and "get out";
  • be able to talk about body parts without a sense of naughtiness;
  • be able to ask trusted adults questions about sexuality;
  • know that it is normal for them to masturbate, but that it should be done in private;
  • be aware that sexual identity includes sexual orientation - lesbian, gay, straight or bisexual;
  • understand the basic facts about HIV/AIDS;
  • take an active role in managing their body's health and safety.


Nine- to thirteen-year-olds (in addition to developing earlier skills) should be informed about:


  • human reproduction including how male and female bodies grow and differ;
  • the biological components of the reproductive cycle including the probability of pregnancy with unprotected vaginal intercourse;
  • an understanding of human sexuality as a natural part of life and the natural emotional, social, physical, developmental and sexual changes expected throughout puberty including menstruation and wet dreams (by age 12-13);
  • it is possible to plan parenthood and that contraceptives exist;
  • the purposes and considerations of dating;
  • an awareness of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)


Fourteen- to eighteen-year-olds (in addition to developing previously listed skills) should be informed about:


  • human sexuality including recognition of the impact of media presentations that depict sexual involvement;
  • contraceptive alternatives;
  • specific information about STIs (causes/cures);
  • a demonstrated awareness of the potentially harmful consequences of sexual relationships;
  • an articulated value system about interpersonal relations, including sexual behavior;
  • an understanding of the right not to have sexual relations;
  • an awareness of the mixture of independence and responsibility needed at their age.

Get Real Middle School Comprehensive Sex Education: 

First Year Evaluation Results Are Promising!


Get Real is a school-based, medically-accurate, age-appropriate sex education curriculum, developed by PPLM. Its goals are to delay the onset of sexual intercourse, and to encourage correct and consistent use of protection when students become sexually active in the future. The middle school curriculum is designed for 6th - 8th grades. Get Real is built on a Social Emotional Learning approach that emphasizes relationship skills as the key to making healthy decisions about sex.


The preliminary results of our third-party evaluation of PPLM's middle school curriculum showed that Get Real is working.  After one year, students enrolled in Get Real were 40% less likely to report that they had sex, compared with peers not enrolled in the curriculum.


Wellesley Centers for Women is conducting the independent evaluation utilizing rigorous criteria. These preliminary results are part of WCW's five-year evaluation measuring the long-term effectiveness of Get Real, and its impact on sexual behavior.  The results also showed that Get Real is working for both boys and girls, which is not always the case for other evidence-based curricula.


This is just a preliminary result after students have received only one-third of the curriculum. We are extremely encouraged by the findings and will continue to assess Get Real's impact on sexual activity, and, as students get older, their use of protection methods.  Stay tuned for more updates on how Get Real is working!


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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