PARENTING and PUBERTY- When, How and What to Speak to Your Child About Puberty

Enlarged breasts, larger penises and testicles, menstruation, pubic hair, change in figure (or rounded figure in girls), voice cracking and early morning erection (in boys) are few of the physiological (natural) signs that occur in puberty. A lot of us parents shy away from speaking to our children about all these or sometimes we don’t know how to go about it.

I was at a conference about 2 weeks ago and one of the questions asked by a concerned mother was how to speak to her child about where babies come from. In response, the speaker gave a joke about his own experience. His pre-teen son (now in his twenties) had asked him where babies came from. He answered it on a spiritual level saying babies come from God. Later he heard his son discussing with his friends saying babies come through “virgina” ? He was trying to say “vagina”. The father was shocked. He underestimated the knowledge of his son not knowing he had gotten some half-baked information from somewhere else. The morale is this, no matter how much we try to shield how children from information about sex and other supposedly adult talks, they get exposed to such advanced ideas at an early age through TV and internet. So, it is imperative for us as parents to take it upon ourselves to speak to our children at such a tender age. My #1 rule is this…… “TRY TO GET TO YOUR CHILD BEFORE THE WORLD GETS TO THEM”

So, when do you speak to your child?

Girls- Girls attain puberty earlier than boys. So, with girls you want to start earlier. 8 is a good age. I know this is a pretty tender age. I have a 7-year-old and God help me, she is still my baby but I am already psyching myself on how to discuss with her when the time comes. On the issue of speaking about sex though, I once wrote on “Sex and Parenting” (read it here). This post will give you an idea on how, what and when to begin the talk. You discuss different issues at different ages.

Menstruation- A young girl could have a scary fit if a parent allows menstruation to creep in on the girl without educating her on why we as women menstruate, how we handle it and where it comes from. It is important to speak to girls about menstruation way before they start. Girls begin menstruation between 11-16 years. Most girls between 11-12 years so I will suggest age 9. Please note that this should not be a onetime discussion. This is a broad topic and I will address it in another post entirely. Please look out for it.

Boys- I will suggest 10 years since they attain puberty a little later than girls.

How To Discuss Puberty With Them

When I discuss puberty with my children, I focus on 2 things; Insecurity and my tone. Since puberty is a change in the body and this can cause insecurity in children, I tell them that what I want to tell them is a natural occurrence of life. Everybody goes through them. They are awkward changes that do not hurt (except for menstrual pains which again will be discussed in another post). Every adult has gone through them when they were at their age. They should never be ashamed of it and should never allow anyone to make them feel ashamed of it. I keep my tone soft and friendly. My aim is to make them as comfortable and approachable as possible.

What To Say To Them

There are so many changes that accompany puberty. Some cut across the board like menstruation in girls while others don’t like acne. A child needs to know all and the reason is that when a change occurs in their friends that they haven’t or didn’t go through yet, they will understand what it is and can also support the friend in dealing with it. Also explain to them that these are as a result of growth hormones that the body secretes. Everyone secretes them.

Here is a list of changes to discuss with your child. Please allow me to also chip in here that you should discuss “some” of the changes that they will see in opposite sex. If you have a boy, discuss the changes to be seen in a girl and vice versa.

Boys- Growth Surge; Penis and Testicles grow larger; Voices change and become deeper. Appearance of acne; Muscles get bigger; Some boys have wet dreams (ejaculation in their sleep). Facial hair begins to appear.

Girls- The #1 topic that should be discussed is menstruation. It’s a delicate topic
(which I’m sure you know) because it involves the appearance of blood which appears in the most private part of the body monthly. Again, please look out for the post coming out soon.

Do not let the world get to your child before you get to him/her.

Other changes to look out for are growth surge like the boys; Shape becomes more rounded in the hips and leg area; Swelling of the breasts- they begin to grow; Appearance of hair (armpit and pubic region); They also begin to sweat more (introduce deodorants to them); Mood swings.

To conclude, adolescence is a time to be very close to your child (if you weren’t before). Be free with them so they can approach you with questions that come to their mind and lastly, do not wait for your child to ask questions before you begin the talk because most of the time, they will never ask.

So over to you my dear reader. How did you mom discuss puberty with you. Or maybe you are just like me that puberty was never discussed with. Please let me know your thoughts.

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Tolusworld Profile- Tolu Dairo MD. MSc.  A motivational speaker and writer who uses her passion for career/self-development, positive parenting and healthy relationships to inspire to live their dreams.

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