As awkward as it might be, it is important to take the time to talk to your children about the physical, emotional, and social changes and challenges that come with puberty. Kids will do better during this often difficult transition if they know what is happening to them and realise that the changes are perfectly normal.
Hey, Whose Body is This?
The most obvious changes that occur during puberty are the physical ones. Kids need to be aware in advance that their bodies will be undergoing a transformation. There are a number of great books available to help you explain to your child all of the changes that they can expect. These books can be great conversation starters, but shouldn’t be considered a substitute for taking the time to talk to your kids and answer their questions.
What Can They Expect?
Every child develops at their own rate, but there are some averages. Most girls can expect to see some breast “budding” at about nine or ten, with their first period following a few years later. Body hair typically begins growing around the same time as breast budding. For boys, puberty usually begins somewhere between the ages of nine and fourteen, with eleven being average. The first sign of the onset of puberty in boys is an enlargement of the testes, then an increase in body hair, followed by an overall growth spurt.
Am I Normal?
Most every kid wonders if their bodies are developing in a “normal” way. Since puberty can begin at varying ages, the first and last children in a group to hit puberty usually have an especially difficult time. The first amongst a group of friends to experience noticeable changes in their body may feel awkward and embarrassed. Additionally, teasing is not uncommon, which can increase the discomfort. For the late bloomer, they may worry that they will never catch up to their friends. It can be assuring for them to know that there is a wide range of “normal,” and that their rate of development is just fine.
Why am I so Moody?
In addition to the physical changes, puberty brings about hormonal changes that can have a profound effect on moods. Tempers tend to flare and kids may feel unexplained bouts of sadness. Until their hormones settle into a predictable pattern, it can help kids to know that their changing feelings are every bit as normal as their changing bodies.
Do we Really Have to Talk About This Stuff?
Kids often feel uncomfortable talking about puberty and many parents find the topic difficult, as well. Talks about puberty lead naturally into talks about sexuality, which can make everyone involved feel a bit awkward. It can be easier to have a series of casual chats rather than trying to sit your child down for the “big talk.” Start small, when your children are young, by using proper names for body parts and making conversations about bodily functions a natural thing. As they mature, look for opportunities to approach the topic of puberty during your everyday conversations. By making sure that the subject isn’t taboo, you will give your child a feeling that they can come to you with their questions and concerns.
Does Everybody Feel This Way?
One of the things that troubles prepubescent kids and young teens is the feeling that they are somehow “different.” Assure them that everyone goes through puberty and has much the same experience. We all have to make the transition from childhood into adulthood and almost without exception, everyone experiences some self-doubt. It can help to share some of your own memories of puberty so that your kids will know that their experience is perfectly normal. After all, you made it through. If you have a funny or embarrassing story to share, it can help them to relax and know that they will survive this transition, too.