How to Explain the Reproductive System to Children
You may feel uncomfortable when you realize that your son or daughter will go through puberty and ask questions about where babies come from. Part of being a parent is answering tough and sometimes embarrassing questions. Helping your child understand the reproductive system is more than just teaching a few details. Taking the time to give your child the correct information and presenting it in a way that matches your family values opens up the lines of communication.
Female Reproductive System
Use a book, website or model of the human body to show your child where the reproductive organs on both sexes are located. Avoid the tendency to use slang words for body parts, but instead use the proper medical terms. Guide your discussion and depth of information based on your child's age. Do not show a young child photographs, but rather use a child's book that has general line drawings representing body parts.
Outline the female reproductive system by telling your child that a female is able to get pregnant after her menstrual cycle begins. Describe the function of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Tell your child that the uterus has a soft lining inside which supports a growing baby. Tell your child that if there is no baby, the lining sheds itself every month and this is called the menstrual cycle, or period.
Expand your explanation of the female reproductive system for an older child by explaining that a woman's cycle is regulated by hormones. The hormones dictate when an egg releases and when the woman's monthly cycle begins. Tell your older child that if the egg is fertilized by a sperm, pregnancy occurs. If you are uncomfortable talking about intercourse, use one of the many books designed for children to guide your discussion.
Talk about how pregnant women begin getting a larger belly as the baby grows. Explain that the uterus expands to accommodate the growing baby. Show your child a picture of a baby in-utero and point out the placenta and umbilical cord. Tell your child that is how the baby gets nourishment. Stress the responsibility involved in getting pregnant and raising a baby.
Male Reproductive System
Talk about the male reproductive system using an age-appropriate drawing or book and show your child a picture of the male genitalia. Explain that a boy's genitals grow and change as he gets older. Show your child a line drawing of the testicles, the duct system, the accessory glands and the penis, recommends KidsHealth.org. Describe the other changes puberty brings to boys, such as hair growth, deepening voice and growth spurts. Explain that during puberty, the boy's body begins producing sperm.
Explain to your child that during intercourse, the male sperm can fertilize the waiting female egg. Show your child how the egg divides to form a blastocyst, or embryo, and then implants it into the woman's uterus. Tell your child that without a sperm, an egg will not fertilize.
Tell your child that you are available to answer any questions about reproduction or sexual intercourse. Be prepared for your child to feel embarrassed or disgusted. Keep the dialogue open so your child feels comfortable coming to you for information.
Set aside a time to talk when other kids are not present.
Begin talking about human reproduction at an early age, using appropriate words. Let your child know that it is OK to talk about sex and reproduction.
If your child has not asked about the facts of life, initiate the discussion.
Do not laugh or make fun of any questions your child asks.
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