Puberty. It’s a fact of life. Still, it’s not an easy thing for many parents to discuss.
But sooner or later, it’s a conversation that you’re going to have to have. Hopefully, your first puberty discussion is just one of many.
It may feel awkward at first, but you can do it. The following resources will help you navigate puberty talks with your kids. Armed with ideas and information, you can prepare your kids for the adventure of growing up.
Here are 9 great resources for teaching your kids about puberty.
#1) Preschool Help from Mayo Clinic
Parents often want to put off puberty and sex talks as long as possible. But young children may have different ideas. It’s normal for toddlers and preschoolers to ask questions that make grownups a bit uncomfortable, such as wondering where babies come from.
As embarrassed as you might feel, though, take these candid moments as opportunities to give your youngsters a good foundation.
For example, the preschool years are a great time to introduce your kids to proper names for body parts. You can also set the stage for healthy, open conversations about bodies and reproduction without going into unnecessary details. Kids this young don’t need to know the inner workings of the birds and bees, but they do need to know what their body parts are called.
If you need help, check out Mayo Clinic’s guide to preschoolers and sex education. It includes common questions that young kids ask and age-appropriate ways to respond.
#2) Age-by-Age Tips from Parents
You can have honest conversations with your kids at any age. But the information that a toddler needs is a lot different from what a soon-to-be teenager needs.
Parenting expert Betsy Brown Braun teamed up with Parents magazine to put together a short video guide for parents. It provides tips for body talks with two different age groups: 2- to 7-year-olds and 8- to 12-year-olds.
Braun points out that the timing of your conversations may depend on how quickly your child’s body matures. Girls who develop breast buds early may need to learn about bra shopping sooner than their peers.
Keep in mind that not every puberty talk is a sex talk.
You may choose to tell your kids about maturing bodies long before you delve into other aspects of growing up. You’ll get there eventually, but it’s okay to take things one step at a time.
#3) Parent Guide from KidsHealth
It sure would be nice to have someone hold your hand through the puberty-talk process, wouldn’t it? While Nemours KidsHealth doesn’t do that, exactly, it does offer a handy guide to puberty discussions.
The key takeaways are:
- Start the conversations early.
- Don’t wait for your kids to come to you.
- Teach kids about the changes in both boys and girls.
KidsHealth advises that 8-year-olds should know about the physical and emotional changes of puberty. That may seem early, but it’s not a bad idea. Teaching your kids while they’re young ensures that they won’t be blindsided when the changes start happening to them.
Plus, not every kid goes through puberty in middle school. Some late elementary children may start the process earlier, so it’s good to be prepared.
#4) Discussion Points from Norton Children’s
How can you know whether you’ve covered all the basics with your kids? Norton Children’s Hospital has a blog post with discussion points for boys and girls.
Remember, you don’t have to go over all these topics at once. Puberty discussions should be ongoing for several years, ideally cropping up in regular conversation instead of one big “Talk” all at once. You can refer to these lists as you plan which topics to chat about next.
These checklists offer a guide to get you started. You can tweak them based on your priorities and values.
Of course, don’t forget to consult the other gender’s list to see what you need to cover from there, too. Boys should learn about periods. Girls need to understand erections and ejaculation.
#5) Conversation Starters from Cincinnati Children’s
Taking advantage of developmental milestones may help you ease into various puberty conversations. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s blog offers a handy chart of conversation starters. By consulting the guide, you may find it easier to have the right discussions at the right times.
The blog post is aimed at parents of girls, which means it primarily addresses female development. But it’s still worth a read for parents of boys. Both boys and girls deal with issues like acne and mood swings. You may find that several of the tips are useful even if you don’t have daughters.
#6) Sex and Puberty Guide from NHS
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has a digital leaflet on its website that you can share with your kids. Called “4You,” it uses cartoon-style drawings to introduce kids to male and female bodies. The brochure also covers sex, periods and more in a straightforward way.
This is a British publication, so a few of the terms may be different from what your kids will hear in America. For example, the leaflet talks about “sanitary towels” rather than “sanitary pads.” The wealth of information in this approachable guide makes it worth the tradeoff, though.
Besides, you may find that questions about unfamiliar terms open the door for further conversation with your kids.
#7) Video Resources from Procter & Gamble
Some parents like to introduce their preteens to puberty concepts with kid-friendly books. Others may prefer educational videos. And if you’ve got a visual learner, a video might be more helpful in reinforcing the message.
For those in the video crowd, check out the free resources from Always and Procter & Gamble. These puberty videos are designed for classroom use, but they can be helpful for families, too. There’s a boys’ version, a girls’ version and a co-ed one. If you want to focus your conversation on periods, there’s a short video for that as well.
#8) Book Recommendations from Common Sense Media
Even if you encourage open communication, your kids may have puberty questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask. You may want to provide a reference guide that they can turn to again and again for solid answers.
Your kids are going to find information on sex and puberty somewhere. Would you rather they get it from friends, the internet or a reliable book that you’ve reviewed first?
To help you find a guide that fits your family’s style, Common Sense Media has put together a list of recommendations. You can sort it by age: 8 to 9, 10 to 12, and 13+.
#9) Special Needs Resources
Parenting a child with special needs brings unique challenges. And dealing with puberty is one of them. Kids with special needs may struggle more than others to adjust to body changes or regulate their emotional ups and downs.
Autism Speaks offers a thorough guide to help you support your child. Topics in the guide include hygiene and online safety.
The Autism Speaks guide is addressed to parents of children who have autism spectrum disorders. For more general tips on helping a child with special needs understand puberty, this roundup from Navigate Life Texas could be a good place to start.
Finally, don’t forget about your pediatrician.
You probably already have a puberty pro on your side. Pediatricians have helped countless families through this process. They may have answers to the questions that stump both you and your child.
Plus, your child’s doctor already knows about your child and his specific medical needs. That means more personalized advice tailored to your budding teen.
You can call the office to ask for help, or you could provide your child some one-on-one time with the doctor during his next well visit.
Whichever way you choose and whichever resource strikes your fancy, start these conversations early. Open communication between you and your kids is a good way to make sure they can come to you with questions — even the uncomfortable ones.