As parents, we all know that the day will come that we need to discuss puberty with our children. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be an option; it’s a necessity.
Schools are obliged to teach a curriculum that involves details about how bodies change as we grow, body parts, sex and relationships, and much more. However, I don’t feel this negates the need for parents to discuss this with their offspring, as well.
Relationships education is compulsory in all primary schools and what they are taught falls into five main categories:
- Families and people who care for me
- Caring friendships
- Respectful relationships
- Online relationships
- Being safe
Children are encouraged to ask questions, and the ability of the individuals should be taken into when planning and delivering the sessions. While I talk to my daughters about this, no teacher would ever take it for granted that this is what happens in every home; all circumstances are different.
How should we broach the subject of puberty?
Even us teachers can find it difficult talking about puberty and sex with our children. When we teach a whole class, it is very different. We are fulfilling the requirements of the curriculum, exactly like we would be teaching the subjunctive mood in Year 6 English lessons or split digraphs in phonics sessions.
So, how should we broach the subject? Here are a few tips.
Don’t make it too formal
When we have serious things to discuss with our children, a high level of formality can make things more awkward. Indeed, chatting fairly informally, yet remaining honest and to the point about puberty can help. If you address things in a way that is too rigid, your daughter may clam up and find it difficult to talk about the subject.
Choose the right time
If you interrupt a mightily important game of Roblox or try to discuss puberty when your child is hungry, you may be greeted with an annoyed child, eager to get away, desperate for the conversation to be over as quickly as possible. Pick a time when your child’s mood is quite upbeat (might be a challenge) or at least neutral. It is important to ensure you won’t be interrupted every five minutes, so be sure that younger (and potentially older) siblings and other distractions are elsewhere.
Regarding the right time, it should also be the right time in a child’s life, too. If you leave the talk too late and they have already begun their periods, for example, then it might be increasingly confusing for them to understand what is happening to their bodies. If your daughter has started to develop, then do not leave the puberty talk too long.
Use the right language
I’ve long since held the belief that we should refer to body parts by their proper names rather than silly ones, like Minnie or Teddy. Unfortunately, in some child abuse cases in the past, the violations were not discovered as early as they could have been due to the nicknames given to body parts. Of course, this is not the sole reason for using the right language when discussing puberty, but it is a consideration.
Read the room
If your daughter is finding it difficult to accept or understand the things you are explaining to her about puberty, then perhaps you need to leave the subject for now and return to it at a later date. Of course, discussing the subject is essential, but it may be that they require some time to independently process the information you have passed onto them, and they will also have time to consider any questions they feel they need to ask.
Use other material
Our kids don’t always trust the words that come out of our mouths. Sometimes, it’s because they are in denial about what might be happening to them and an inability to accept how they will change. Other times, they may not have a strong relationship with one or both parents, for a number of potential reasons. Finally, they may perhaps find it excruciatingly painful to discuss their bodies with their mum or dad.
Having written material available to refer to can really help. There are a wealth of books available to buy on the subject, so read the reviews and decide which might be best for your child. There are also loads of puberty-related videos on the Internet, YouTube in particular. Be sure to watch ahead to ensure the content is appropriate and accurate; this will also help you to anticipate any potentially challenging questions they may ask.
Revisit when/if necessary
Just like a maths lesson, we can never take everything in all at once. If your child has asked why Daddy has hair down below at a young age and you’ve explained that hair is natural for grown-ups, that doesn’t mean that conversation is done and dusted. It will be revisited when they’re older, and you will need to tie it in to a conversation about how people’s bodies change when they go through puberty and when they have a baby, perhaps.
When girls first find out that they will have periods monthly for a large proportion of their lives, they may well ask if the bleeding hurts. While some women have almost pain-free periods, most don’t, and it’s important to be honest. Do so in a reassuring way, though. “It will probably hurt a bit, but just come to me and I’ll prepare you a hot water bottle.” and responses like that could help.
What do other parents think about having the puberty talk?
We asked other parents bloggers about their experiences relating to talking to their daughters about puberty. Here are some of their responses.
Victoria from Healthy Vix shared:
“My daughter’s school actually did a lesson on this when she was in year 4 (age 8 years) which we had to agree to our daughter to attend. This prompted the talk for us and my daughter’s first interest in the subject. It also worried her slightly about periods, so I purchased a pack of pads for her to stop her worrying that she doesn’t have anything when the time comes! It does seem quite early, but I had a couple of false starts when I was in junior school. She’s now in year 5 (age 9) and we often talk about the changes whenever she brings it up, as she’s noticing some changes starting now such as body odour and more hair. So it begins! I think without the school doing the lesson then we would have naturally spoken about this when she was age 9/10, before senior school.”
Vikki from Family Travel with Ellie explains:
“Having grown up in a household where puberty/bodies/sex and such topics really weren’t discussed, I was adamant we would keep everything open with our kids. No subject is off-limits as long as sensible discussions follow. We have had open honest discussions with my daughter about periods since she first saw my sanitary products in the bathroom when she was around 6. I was sure to buy a pack of teen pads to have put away so we weren’t caught out and also an excellent “puberty” book that we read together. We did all we could to ensure the whole process was as unscary as possible.”
Jen from Sister Lessons shares her own experience of having ‘the talk’ as a child:
“My mum never had the periods talk with me just game me a booklet from Tampax. I went to a Catholic school, so they didn’t agree with doing the talk either!”