This information is invaluable for a parent. I learned how to approach these things through reading good books like this one. We parents need to be informed if we are going to handle the delicate matters of life with wisdom, calm and a positive attitude. It is of the utmost importance!
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Overcoming “street corner” knowledge.
Your child will not need to know additional details of the reproductive process until he reaches pre-adolescence. But he may often ask questions you thought you had answered completely many times before.
He may have forgotten what you told him; more commonly, however, he has acquired some information from playmates which may not coincide with the story of birth as he has learned it from you.
When youngsters repeat basic questions, a wise parent will use the opportunity to cite the importance of relying on information received at home and not upon that which other children mention in the streets.
There is no reason to become alarmed if your child reports having conversations about the basic facts of life with others of his age.
Such conversations are entirely normal.
If you have encouraged him to ask you about this subject and have answered frankly, with reverence and without embarrassment, he will probably report his street-corner discussions to you.
The time to become concerned is when he no longer asks about sex or shows an evident distaste when the subject is introduced. He probably has heard something from his playmates which has shocked him, and perhaps even left him ashamed of the manner of his own conception.
If he appears ashamed, he should be told that the marriage act cannot be shameful when viewed as God intended, for it is the beautiful means by which life was given to all mankind, including the saints and the Blessed Mother herself.
When your child is aged seven to ten, you have an unequaled opportunity to reinforce his knowledge by calling his attention to the references to birth in our daily prayers and in the Bible. In this way, you can emphasize the close relationship between Almighty God and the reproductive act.
For example, you can discuss the “Hail, Mary” and explain the phrase, “the fruit of thy womb,” by pointing out that the womb is the nest in which a mother carries her infant before his birth.
The account of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth can be used to explain childbearing. Stories of Christmas can provide the framework for a discussion of how Jesus was born as well as how all babies are delivered from their mother’s womb.
Preparing your child for puberty.
While it is usually wise to wait until your child asks about sex before you volunteer information, you should take the initiative in preparing for puberty.
At about the age of twelve, girls begin to menstruate. Unless they have been told what to expect, the first flow of blood may cause severe shock.
You should make your daughter proud of these physical changes when they come, for she is taking an important step toward womanhood. Considerably before the first menstruation is expected, explain the exact significance of the process. She should know that God has planned her body so that blood is stored each month, ready to carry food to a baby if a new life should begin, and that the blood is discharged after a certain period if no baby has been conceived.
Here, too, the emphasis should be on the Divine plan. It should be pointed out that God has forbidden the use of the organs to anyone who is not married.
Mothers must avoid indicating that there is anything terrible or shameful about this biological function. Nor should they stress the pain and sense of depression which some women feel on the days before menstruation. They might calmly explain that while such symptoms sometimes exist, medical science has appropriate drugs to ease them.
Boys attain puberty at about thirteen years. Well before this time, their fathers should tell them that they will soon release semen in their sleep–a manifestation that they are arriving at manhood. Of course, they are not morally responsible for these natural emissions, even if dreams of an exciting nature accompany them. A boy should be advised, however, that he should neither assist nor prevent the discharge of seed.
Moral teaching regarding the touching of his penis in order to obtain pleasure should be explained. Regardless of the means used, any deliberate effort to induce a discharge is a serious sin.
However, it is often necessary to clean the penis, and on such occasions no sin is involved if some unintended pleasure results. Any prolonged handling of the organ beyond the time necessary for reasons of health and cleanliness is sinful.
Fathers should advise their youngsters of the importance of habits of chaste thought to overcome temptations to commit solitary sins of thought or act.
In instructing your pre-adolescent son, you might make use of one or more of the excellent pamphlets written to supplement your teachings and to give him a spiritual insight into the opportunities, challenges and temptations of his approaching manhood.
Such publications may be found in the pamphlet rack in the back of your church or in Catholic bookstores. You should read each pamphlet before giving it to your child, both to familiarize yourself with the contents in order to answer questions based on his reading, and to make certain that it suits his particular needs.
When boys and girls reach puberty, parents should advise them that contacts with the opposite sex might lead to sin. The emotional and physical reaction of males and females differ greatly.
A boy has an intense physical drive, and kissing or other contacts may set up a fierce desire for sexual relief; with a girl, on the other hand, a kiss may merely express her companionship.
A girl who does not know that a boy may be deeply stimulated by her kissing may make it difficult for him to keep his thoughts pure.
Boys should be taught to respect girls because they are God’s chosen vessels for the creation of new human lives and should not be despoiled in any way. Boys who learn to respect womanhood in their childhood will translate this training into respect for the girls they know.
Also make sure that your daughter understands the importance of modesty in dress. It is apparent that many girls do not realize what a source of temptation they really are when they dress in an unbecoming way and reveal parts of their body which arouse impure suggestions in boys’ minds.
Short skirts, low necklines, dresses that reveal every curve, sweaters that are too tight, artificial bosoms–all are age-old devices to stimulate male passion. A girl who resorts to them may cause great harm not only to boys but to herself.
Many a young miss, heavily rouged and painted and wearing the most provocative styles, cannot understand why boys seem interested only in her physical attraction and not in her as a person. Her way of dressing advertises her to the world as one who seeks this kind of attention.
Some mothers object to giving their daughters information about the different natures of men and women, because they fear that the girls will lose their innocence thereby.
This is an error, for ignorance and innocence are separate things. When the angel appeared to the Blessed Virgin to reveal that she was to give birth to the Messiah, she indicated knowledge of the ordinary facts of life by asking how this could be so, for “I know not man.”
Her knowledge did not prevent Mary from being the most innocent of humans.
Giving your daughter such information will, in fact, protect her innocence. She will be guided by her knowledge to avoid situations which might be occasions of sin. In this vital matter, it is better for parents to instruct a year too soon rather than a minute too late.
The Daily Family Rosary. Steady, Constant. Amid the crosses of daily life with many children, the misunderstandings between husband and wife, the financial burdens…we had the rosary.
When the kids got hurt or sick, when I was very ill, when hubby was in the hospital and we had no money to pay, through tragedies, accidents and fires, when I didn’t understand why God was letting things happen to us…. we were saying the Rosary. It was our mainstay and the anchor that held us together in laughter and in pain. -Leane VanderPutten
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