Puberty: When and how to have the discussion with kids

Puberty Hero
Puberty can be a tricky minefield to navigate with tweens and teens, and even talking about it can be tough...

There are some parenting discussions we know we have to have at some point with the kids, some easier than others. Speaking to little ones about stranger danger and having an answer for the inevitable “How are babies made?” are part and parcel of the parenting journey. And while there are plenty of great books out there to help explain trickier subjects, it’s always good to have ‘the chat’ about certain topics in a one-on-one. Talking to kids about puberty is definitely a conversation we all need to have at some point. But at what age are the kids (and us) likely to be ready? Mum-of-three, Tracy, has navigated her way through two rounds of discussions and diagrams so far, and here’s what she’s learnt along the way…

Be led by the kiddos

Girls will probably be ready for the gory details before boys. I ‘made’ my eldest, a boy, have the chat with me when he was around 11-years old. Despite his protestations that he already knew ‘all about it’ from school, I wanted to make sure he had the right info, and not just the weird and wonderful stuff he’d picked up from his mates. I knew he would be mortified about the whole thing, so I left it as late as I felt I could with him, and made the whole process as brief but informed as possible. I came armed with diagrams and books which he was really chuffed about. Not.

My daughter, however, was not only ready for the chat much earlier, but also by nature way easier to speak to about this kind of thing. We had quite a lengthy, and dare I say it, fun convo about all things puberty when she was nine-years-old. A few of her friends had already begun showing signs of puberty so she had some understanding already, and she took it all very much in her stride.

My third child, another boy, is six-years-old and doesn’t take much in life seriously. He’s already picked up on some things, especially when it comes to periods (aforementioned sister isn’t shy about chatting about these things). I suspect I will end up giving him the full brief before I did with the other two.

Try not to feel awkward

Chances are your child is going to feel more awkward about this stuff than you are, especially if changes to their body have already begun. Kids are sensitive souls (generally) when it comes to serious chats with parents, so don’t spring the info on them during a rushed school run. Make sure you have lots of time and are well versed in what you want to talk about, and try not to be awkward about it: the kids will pick up on this in a nanosecond.

Pace yourself!

If you feel your kids aren’t ready for the whole ‘shebang’ in one hit, then break the chats up over the course of a few weeks. Start off with the easier stuff like needing to use deodrant or hormonal feelings and work your way up to the nitty gritty more dramatic things they need to know once they (and you) are more comfortable with these chats.

Inject some humour into the situation

Injecting a lighthearted tone into the equation really helps. Because, let’s face it, some of the stuff that happens to our bods IS quite funny. Making it humourous can also help to divert your child from feeling a tad worried about certain elements of puberty. My daughter draw a wonderfully amusing picture of ovaries during our discussion, and we still chuckle about it today. This does, of course, all depend on the child. Some kids (like my eldest) won’t find any of it funny no matter how hard you try, and will just want to get it done with asap. Again, as previously mentioned, be led by your child.

Bring backup

Books are definitely a great backup to bring to the life lesson. We love:

Hair in Funny Places by Babette Cole
Aimed at kiddos as young as four years, and up to around 10 years, this is a highly entertaining book about how bodies change. It’s perfect for when younger sibs are curious about puberty thanks to older brothers and sisters, and takes the form of a conversation between a small girl and her teddy bear about Mr and Mrs Hormone.

What’s Going on Down There? A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up by Karen Gravelle
Part manual, part older brother, this book poses questions such as, “Why is my voice making such weird sounds?”, “Why do I keep getting pimples?” and “When should I start shaving?”. We love this down-to-earth and practical book that will help guide boys through what can be a pretty confusing time. Big thumbs up for the funny and informative cartoons included too.

Celebrate Your Body (And It’s Changes Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor
Positive, judgment-free, and medically on the ball, this book discusses puberty in a way girls will find easy to understand and informative. It covers everything from breasts and bras to periods, feelings and friends to hair popping up where there was no hair before! The book has been designed to guide tweens and teens through their changes and encourages them to celebrate their one-of-a-kind bods during puberty and beyond. Hurrah!

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