I bet you don’t have to try too hard to remember your own experience of puberty. Mine wasn’t pretty, was yours?
As your kids move into their tween years, being able to talk about the changes they’re experiencing is a new part of the parent role. And it’s one that you either have to fill, or someone else will.
The key points to get across
There are the basics, like the names for different parts of the body and what they’re for. This can start from the earliest age and most experts suggest using the proper names for body parts. Not cute family names.
Once you’ve got that covered, start moving into less comfortable waters, like how babies are made. Yes, most parents feel embarrassed when their kids work out that they were made that way too! That look on their face is one that will stay with you for a lifetime.
It’s always best to have a break after that.
And when the time’s right, talk about puberty. For some kids this can start as early as 7 or 8 years of age, so don’t assume that you can hang off until high school.
For girls, talk about how their body will change, what a period is and how it happens. Answer any questions they have. Help them to see that they can still run and swim, and their friends don’t have to know. Work out what they want to do about their body hair when they bring it up.
With boys, again, it’s all about the body changes. Why and how their voice changes, as well. Be open about how their developing sexual body can result in odd dreams at night that might.
Just make time to talk about what’s going to happen as they move through puberty.
Between the ages of 8 and 12, children often worry whether they’re “normal”. Particularly when it comes to the size and symmetry of the penis, testicles and breasts. Offer reassurance that children of the same age mature at different rates. Puberty might begin years earlier, or later for some children. But everyone does catch up.
You might share your own experiences, particularly if you had the same concerns they have.
It’s best if you are the one in control of the information and conversation your child is getting about puberty. The reality is that these days they can find out about their bodies from their friends or somewhere online. So, choose to be their first source of information!
Some tips for dealing with puberty
You can’t guarantee that you can really prepare your kids for puberty, particularly girls who will one day just experience it. But here’s some tips from other School Mum’s who have been through this stage:
- Don’t just talk about the changes they will experience once. Keep refreshing their information.
- Help them to be confident in dealing with the changes. Choose deodorants that they like, experiment with make up, and help them work out a face cleaning process.
- Give girls a kit for when that day does arrive. A small purse or pencil case is perfect. Pack it with a change of underwear, some wipes and pads, along with a paracetamol tablet. Get them to keep it in their school bag.
- Look out for stressful events or camps. Again this one is for girls, but for some reason there seems to be a higher chance of their period starting while they’re away from you or stressed.
Be ready. Have the gear on hand for when they decide today is the day. Or make a shopping trip as part of celebrating their growing up. You might only be shopping for a shaver or getting their eyebrows waxed, but these are special moments that you only get once
Help your daughter work out an action plan for when their period does come – who could they ask for help and what can they do to clean up. Give them permission to throw their underwear away and praise any problem-solving they do! That first period is never nice.
Normalise the emotions that come with puberty. They may burst into tears for no real reason, or feel embarrassed when their voice squeaks now and then. Help them to see that everyone goes through this stage and it’s just part of moving from being a child to an adult.
This is not an easy topic to tackle, and most parents feel awkward getting the conversation started. But that’s part of being the grown up! So grab this opportunity to shape your child into a great adult and get talking.