Puberty can be a tricky minefield to navigate with tweens and teens, and even talking about it can be tough. Here's how to start the conversation with your kids.
There are some parenting discussions we know we have to have at some point with the kids, and some are 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. 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? If you’re gearing up to talk about puberty, here’s some advice from mum-of-three Tracy…
How to talk to kids about puberty
1. 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. Despite his protests 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 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 talk about puberty when she was nine. A few of her friends had already begun showing signs of puberty so she had some understanding and took it all in her stride.
At the time of writing, my third child has already picked up on some things. I suspect I will end up giving him the full brief before I did with the other two. As parents, you’ll know when it feels right to have the talk about puberty.
2. 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 generally sensitive souls 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 for a talk about puberty. Be 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.
3. 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 deodorant or hormonal feelings and work your way up to the nitty-gritty once they (and you) are more comfortable.
4. Inject some humour into the situation
When it comes to a talk about puberty, 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 humorous can also help to divert your child from feeling a tad worried about certain elements of puberty. My daughter drew a wonderfully amusing picture of ovaries during our discussion, and we still chuckle about it today. This, of course, all depends 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.
5. Bring backup
Books are definitely a great backup to bring to the life lesson. We love these conversation starters:
Hair in Funny Places by Babette Cole
Aimed at kiddos as young as four and up to around 10, this is a highly entertaining book about how bodies change. It’s perfect for when younger sibs are curious to talk about puberty thanks to older brothers and sisters. It 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 talks about 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 bodies during puberty and beyond. Hurrah!
Growing Up Great!: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Boys by Scott Todnem
Written by a celebrated health educator, this inclusive, body-positive guide goes through the gamut when it comes to puberty for boys, from hygiene to managing emotions and maintaining privacy. What we really appreciate is the practical advice for handling today’s challenges, such as navigating social media and peer pressure. There’s also a section on how to practise mindfulness!
All set? Now go forth and talk about puberty!
Top image: August de Richelieu via Pexels