As a parent, you shouldn’t expect your child to approach you about topics related to puberty. First, your child may not know it is okay for them to talk to you about it and they may feel that they already know what is necessary. Kids get information from TV, magazines and other people but as you cannot guarantee the reliability of these sources, you should take the time to approach the subject yourself.
The perfect time to start feeding them information about this topic is around age 8. Some may feel like this age is too young but isn’t it a fact that some girls are in training bras by this age? You should be able to then tell them about the physical and emotional changes linked to puberty. After all, they will be curious anyway about these changes and may go to inappropriate sources to answer their questions.
Another reason to start discussions from as early as age 8 is because you can never be sure when a girl will start menstruating (ages range from early as 9 to as late as 16). Just like an adult where you want to be properly prepared before major events such as purchasing a new house or giving birth, a child will need to know the key aspects of menstruating so that when she gets her period for the first time, she won’t be startled; especially since she will be bleeding from what may seem like a strange place. As it relates to boys, they may begin to start developing sexually without even sprouting their first pubic or facial hair. On an average, this may between the ages of 11 to 12.
The process of puberty can be scary and certain changes may leave your child feeling unconfident. You may be able to relate as I can when my breasts started to grow and I had a large chest by age 11. I felt insecure considering that none of my friends were as large as I was. I also felt like they wouldn’t stop growing and it just felt unnatural. I would as a result “hide” my chest by wearing baggy t-shirts. That time of my life was confusing and it would have helped if I was made aware that I would grow into them and wouldn’t end up looking like the lady at church with DD breasts that sagged to her navel. I really wished that I would have known this but instead I would get teased by both my sister and mother about it. No hard feelings though as I know they meant no harm. But it reinforces my point of offering reassurance that these changes are standard and that they aren’t the only ones going through this.
When it is the appropriate time to start discussions, there are certain topics to cover. They are:
- The bodily changes that will occur such as pubic and facial hair, girls developing hips, the growth of breasts, possible acne and the increase in sweating
- Boys may have wet dreams (ejaculating in their sleep)
- What it means to menstruate and the stages of a menstrual cycle
- How to use a tampon and/or sanitary napkins (pads)
Reassure your child that you are available to talk but you may need to initiate the conversation as they may feel embarrassed. It can also be uncomfortable for the parent but if you properly prepare on the subject and practice answering the questions beforehand, then it won’t be so bad. You know that this is an important conversation to have, let your child know that too.