How to Talk to Your Kids About Puberty
It’s that awkward moment every parent dreads. The time has come to talk to your child about puberty.
You may feel uncomfortable, but know that this conversation is essential to your child’s overall emotional and physical well-being.
Here are a few pointers to help you navigate these uncharted waters.
- Start early. Experts recommend beginning the discussion about puberty with your child at the age of eight. Consider that some changes, such as the onset of menstruation, can occur as early as age nine.
- Initiate the conversation. Show that you are receptive to their problems and concerns by opening the dialogue. Kids will take your lead if you show them that it’s OK to talk openly about the topic.
- Ask about what your child has learned in Health class. If your child has just had “the Talk” in school, that’s a great teachable moment. Every child has unique needs, so find out what he learned and focus on filling in any gaps.
- Prepare them for physical changes. As with common changes in our adult lives (new jobs, new homes, new relationships), your child can handle them far better when she knows what to expect. Prepare your son for a deepening voice, facial hair, and ejaculations. Talk to your daughter about changes in her breasts and the onset of her period well before these things happen.
- Teach them that bodies are all different. Your child will instinctively compare himself to others of the same age. Boys will wonder why their penises and testicles are larger or smaller than those of their peers. Girls will be concerned about the size and shape of their breasts. Reassure them that differences are normal.
- Demystify the opposite sex. Sex education at school will focus on the changes that happen in your child’s gender. Make sure she understands what her friends and peers are going through, too.
- Teach them to respect themselves and others. Emphasize the importance of making good choices about their health. Above all, kids need to understand that no one should intimately touch them without their permission.
- Keep the conversation going. Make sure your child understands that he can always come to you with any questions, and remember to check in now and then.
Ultimately, you do have control over how your child handles the changes that are coming her way. Puberty can be a trying time for both parents and children, but a little preparation goes a long way.