Sexuality Info. for Teachers
| Physical Changes
The Pituitary Gland and Hormones
Ovulation and Menstruation
Dealing with Changes
The following is a review of the physical changes associated with adolescent development.
In males, the pituitary gland sends a message to the testicles to start producing more testosterone (the testicles also produce a small amount of estrogens). In turn, the testicles begin to produce sperm - male reproductive cells. This process, in which the male produces functional sperm, is called spermatogenesis.
The testicles - two walnut-sized glands - are protected by a sac called the scrotum. The scrotum helps to regulate the temperature of the testicles. Testicles need to be kept slightly cooler than the rest of the body. Sperm from the testicles move to the epididymis where they mature. During ejaculation, sperm from the epididymis move through the vas deferens - a slim duct of the testicle - to collect semen. Semen - a whitish-yellow fluid that nourishes the sperm - is a combination of fluid produced from three glands: the prostate, the seminal vesicles and the Cowper's glands. Sperm comprises about 1% of the ejaculatory fluid; the rest of the fluid is semen. In each ejaculation, there are about two hundred and fifty million sperm.
For ejaculation to occur, the penis must be erect. A penis can become erect in reaction to the cold, the urge to urinate, during sleep cycles, or from sexually arousing thoughts. During puberty, erections can occur for no particular reason and without warning. Inside the penis are three large vesicles that engorge with blood during sexual excitement. The penis becomes hard or erect because of the rush of blood that fills the penis. The semen is ejaculated through the urethra - the same tube that allows for urination. A male cannot ejaculate and urinate at the same time because the muscles of the pelvic floor tighten the urethra at the bladder, restricting urination. During puberty, it is not unusual for a boy to experience a wet dream - an involuntary release of semen that occurs while he is sleeping.
Most people are aware that during adolescence many boys have wet dreams. However, few people realize that girls experience wet dreams as well. Since girls produce vaginal lubrication inside their bodies, they may or may not find vaginal secretions in their underwear, but they will not normally need to wash their bed sheets after experiencing a wet dream. Parents may never be aware of their daughter's wet dreams. In contrast, when boys experience wet dreams, they ejaculate outside their bodies and the semen frequently wets their bedding. Boys can be encouraged to change and wash their own sheets, if they wish. Both boys and girls need to be told that wet dreams are very common and a natural part of puberty as young people develop sexual thoughts and feelings.
The hormones that begin the physical changes during puberty also affect children and teen emotions. Some teenagers experience swift changes in their moods, some become increasingly nervous or withdrawn, and others may feel terrific about the changes in themselves. Many young people become increasingly interested in their appearance and in their bodies. Teens often develop romantic feelings towards their peers. Every person is different. However, it is common for all young people to experience intense emotions including: happiness, love, anger, frustration, sadness and sexual attraction. It is important to affirm these emotions in your students. Let them know that what they are feeling is perfectly natural.
During adolescence, most young people desire independence, with a period of gradual maturation and separation from their families. During this time, friends, peers and teachers play an increasingly important role in the lives of teens. It is crucial that lines of communication remain open between parents/caregivers and their children - this way, teens can remain emotionally and socially connected to their families while also exploring their individual identities, friendships and relationships.
It is also important to be aware of the relationship between physical development and sexual development. At each stage of physical development, children explore their sexuality. This chart outlines the sexual changes that teens experience as they mature.
During the ages of 13 to 18, teens:
- Complete the physical, emotional and social changes of puberty
- Place great value on independence
- Experience increased sexual feelings
- Desire physical closeness with a partner
- May face peer pressure to be sexually active whether or not s/he feels ready
- May change close friendships in favour of romantic relationships
- May make choices which lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections
- May face violence in relationships (sexual harassment, acquaintance/date rape)