My son just had the puberty lecture at school last week. It’s always hard to believe our kids are already at THAT age when the note comes home from school, but if you’re waiting until the school talks to them, it’s really too late. Our kids grow up so fast, and they’re constantly bombarded by messaging about sexuality, body image, and identity. So, how do we support our kids? How do we talk with our kids about puberty?
Do you even remember how you learned about puberty? Did you get the horror story? Was it embarrassing? Regardless of how you learned about puberty, you don’t have to use that as a guide for how you talk with your kids. When I was a teenager, my mom told me the story about a girl who thought she was dying when she started her period. I guess it was supposed to make me feel better, but it still left me with a sense of apprehension.
Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that should help you talk with your kids.
What Is Puberty?
Puberty is simple to understand. It’s the birds and the bees. It’s the facts of life, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process. So, your kids don’t just wake up one morning with a period, pubic hair growth, and/or changing voices. They usually start to go through puberty anywhere in the range of years between 8 and 14 years old.
Puberty lasts several years, and the process is different for every kid. It can be exciting because it’s part of getting older. It’s a rite of passage for our kids, but it can feel scary – even traumatizing – as the physical and emotional changes unfold. It’s not always easy to talk with our kids about puberty, particularly if your kids feel uncertain, embarrassed, or just don’t want to talk about it with you. But they need to know they can count on you to help them navigate the often-confusing path through puberty to adulthood. So, how do you teach your kids about puberty?
How To Talk About Puberty
Puberty is just a normal part of our development and growth. So, why is it so hard to talk about? It may be hard to talk about because it’s a personal topic. It involves emotions and personal expressions that may feel uncertain and unexplored by both the parent and child. You may just take the approach that the school will explain it, and most public schools offer a program that covers the basics of puberty.
It’s not enough, though, and when your kids don’t feel comfortable asking the teacher their questions, where will they go for answers? They might find answers in books, movies, or from their friends. And, of course, there’s always Google. Regardless of any discomfort that you or your child may feel as you talk about puberty, you need to keep those channels open. Talk about it even if you say, “I don’t know,” or “Let’s find out,” or simply: “I’m here for you.”
Here are some strategies to get you started.
Be Open And Honest
It’s okay to admit to your child that you don’t have all the answers. You’re figuring it out just like they are. Even if you still want them to believe you know it all and have it all handled, your child has probably figured out by now that you’re not perfect and that you make mistakes. What’s most important right now is that you make it clear that you will help them figure it out. You’re there for them no matter what they face through puberty, adolescence, and beyond.
It’s Never Too Early To Talk
Discussions about changes their bodies are experiencing don’t just start when your children are 8 or 9 years old. They’ve been growing since they were born, and they’ve already probably experienced growing pains along the way. Start early with your age-appropriate conversations about how the body develops and changes. Emotional and physical developments are normal, not something to be embarrassed about. Encourage your kids to ask questions.
Use Books To Start Conversations
Use books to explain body development as a way to support your discussions, but also, let your child know that they can ask you anything, even if it’s not in the book. You will always have a frank and honest discussion with them as you help them understand what’s happening in their own bodies and in the bodies of others.
Embrace The Realities Of Puberty
Remember, kids don’t grow up in a vacuum. Even if your child doesn’t see their siblings go through puberty, they see and hear discussions at school, with cousins and friends, and as a normal part of their interactions in the world we live in. You might want to protect your child from growing up, but all the details of puberty are out there. Instead of avoiding the topic, find ways to embrace it, celebrate it as a part of growing up, and help them understand what is happening to them.
Even if you’d rather forget everything associated with your own puberty, this is a perfect time to let your child know what your experiences were. If it was a confusing time for you, let your kids know. Share how your parents dealt with it. Was it embarrassing for you? Maybe it’s still hard to talk about. Even if you can’t or don’t feel comfortable sharing all the details, you can still let them know how it made you feel and why you want it to be a better, more personal experience for them.
Puberty is part of life. It shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about. While it’s unlikely we’ll fix all the stigma surrounding puberty and menstruation, it’s part of the physical and emotional realities we face as we grow up. Instead of avoiding these conversations, or expecting the school to take care of it, this is an opportunity for you to support your child, encourage them, and let them know that you’re right there with whatever they face.
How do you talk about puberty? Is it still an embarrassment? Please leave your comments below.
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