Talking to Your Child About Puberty
Today, kids are exposed to so much information about sex and relationships on TV and the Internet that by the time they approach puberty, they may be familiar with some advanced ideas. And yet, talking about the issues of puberty remains an important job for parents because not all of a child's information comes from reliable sources.
Don't wait for your child to come to you with questions about his or her changing body — that day may never arrive, especially if your child doesn't know it's OK talk to you about this sensitive topic.
Ideally, as a parent, you've already started talking to your child about the changes our bodies go through as we grow. Since the toddler years, kids have questions and most of your discussions probably come about as the result of your child's inquiries.
It's important to answer these questions about puberty honestly and openly — but don't always wait for your child to initiate a discussion. By the time kids are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some girls are wearing training bras by then and some boys' voices begin to change just a few years later.
The Timing With Boys and Girls
With girls, it's vital that parents talk about menstruation before they actually get their periods. If they are unaware of what's happening, girls can be frightened by the sight and location of blood. Most girls get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old, which is about two or two and a half years after they begin puberty. But some get their periods as early as age 9 and others get it as late as age 16.
On average, boys begin going through puberty a little later than girls, usually around age 10 or 11. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older or developing facial hair first.
Just as it helps adults to know what to expect with changes such as moving to a new home or working for a new company, kids should know about puberty beforehand.
Many kids receive some sex education at school. Often, though, the lessons are segregated, and the girls hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the boys hear about erections and changing voices. It's important that girls learn about the changes boys go through and boys learn about those affecting girls, so check with teachers about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It's a good idea to review the lessons with your child, since kids often still have questions about certain topics.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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