Puberty is not a word that many throw around casually and when it comes to talking to your kids about it, it’s pretty uncomfortable all the way around. It’s often difficult to know how to approach your child about the subject; it’s not exactly something that you can bring up in a casual conversation. No matter how uncomfortable it may be or how many giggles your kid holds back during the conversation, talking about puberty isn’t something you can skip over. Every child is going to go through puberty and it’s better that they be prepared beforehand.
The first thing that parents tend to forget is that just because you aren’t talking to your child about puberty and sexuality doesn’t mean that nobody else is. Kids are exposed to so much more than most parents would like them to be thanks to the technology of today. Talking to them early on means that you can talk first; clear the air and answer questions before they go elsewhere looking for the answers.
Be diligent about informing your child about the changes that will take place at certain stages in their lives. Toddlers can even understand that they are getting bigger and will have questions of their own. Keeping your child well-informed and ensuring that they know they can come to you with questions will minimize their need to find answers from other sources.
Age 8 is a good time to begin discussing the basic changes that come along with puberty. This may seem incredibly early, but many girls start their menstrual cycle by age 9 and boys can begin experiencing voice changes between ages 10 and 11.
Boys vs. Girls
Boys and girls mature at very different rates and go through very different changes. As a parent, you will notice when it’s a good time to start talking to your son or daughter about the impending changes they will experience.
For girls it is imperative that they know all about their menstrual cycle before they actually get it; blood is a scary sight for anyone. Go over the basics so that if it does happen earlier than expected, they at least know that it’s okay and they aren’t sick. You definitely can’t plan or schedule the changes that kids will go through and girls get their periods any time between ages 9 and 16. Girls need to be informed before boys since they mature more quickly and hormonal changes begin much earlier for them.
You will need to discuss menstruation, changes in the pubic area, hair growth, and the need for a training bra. Some girls become excited about the changes while others are terrified. Shopping for a training bra should be a little like a grown up version of shopping for the first pair of underpants while potty training. Your daughter should be encouraged to shop and choose on her own and the experience should help her feel more comfortable and confident.
Boys tend to start puberty later than girls; the early birds start at about 11 or 12 years old while the majority generally start closer to 13 or 14. The first thing that boys should be made aware of is the changes in their voice. The alternating high pitched and baritone sounds that come when they speak are difficult enough to deal with without fully understanding why.
Boys also need to be aware of the onset of extra hair growth and the appearance of facial hair. The problem with boys is that they often undergo the sexual changes first and are too embarrassed to talk about it. While it may be difficult, your son needs to know about his sexuality and especially ejaculation, before it happens. Also be sure that he knows that it is completely normal and that he can talk to you any time.
A certain amount of sex education is also necessary for both boys and girls. The basics should be taught at about the same time they are going through puberty as well as the risks. Hormones are raging during puberty and curiosity often leads further than intended. Talk to your children several times about sex, what your expectations are, and let them know that it is absolutely okay for them to come to you with any questions they have.
Some sex education is taught in the majority of schools, but it’s best that your child have a general idea of the basics before being faced with the health class slideshows. Clear up any major questions beforehand and talk to them throughout the course of the sex education class to make sure there is no confusion.
A Few Last Tips
Talking to your child about puberty is difficult enough without having your own insecurities or confusion getting in the way. Letting your child know they can come to you is crucial, but even more so is setting aside designated times to really talk. Make sure that you are completely clear on what you are discussing beforehand and know what you want to say and what you are hoping your child will learn before delving in.
Keep these few tips in mind:
• Answer your own questions before attempting to answer your child’s. Be sure that you know what you are talking about, and if you don’t know an answer, say so. Let your child know that you will find out and let them know.
• Make every effort to make the talk comfortable. Set aside time when you and your child will be alone. Maybe make your favorite treat to enjoy while you talk. Appear excited rather than nervous, and tell your child that you have very important and exciting things to talk about.
• Consider some visual aids. There are numerous books available to help children understand their bodies and the changes that will take place. Use one of these to direct your conversation and then give it to your child as a reference. Just be sure you know exactly what’s in it first.
• Be confident. It’s a truth that children can sense fear. If you are nervous and unsure, the conversation is not going to have the outcome you hoped for. This may be a difficult topic to discuss, but as the parent you have to take the lead and relieve the tension.