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Puberty: Talking To Your Child about Their Changing Body

Tips for Talking to Kids about Puberty

Talking to kids about puberty is an important job for parents, especially with so much information about sex in the media. Here are some tips to help you guide your child through this difficult time in their lives.

What Exactly Is Puberty?

Most people know that puberty signals the arrival of sexual maturity, during which reproductive organs become functional. Alongside these physical changes, however, boys and girls also experience a number of emotional shifts, thanks to hormonal changes and evolving perspectives. Adjusting to puberty-related changes can be difficult for both parents and their children. That's why it's so important to get off on the right foot by establishing a sense of understanding, which will foster trust between you and your child.

How to Offer Guidance

Many children feel frightened by the onset of puberty, because their bodies become somewhat foreign at a very fast rate. In some cases, sadness may arise, because they fear they are no longer their parents' little girls or little boys. Sadly, some children also experience shame, along with fears that they are not normal. You can help guide your child through this difficult time by adopting the following tactics.

Know what you are talking about. Before you sit down to discuss puberty with your child, make sure you are up to date on the facts. For instance, did you know that most girls start the puberty process at age 10, while the majority of boys start at around age 11 or 12? Take some time to prepare for your discussion by reading over the following facts about puberty .

Don't instill fear . Since it signals the onset of sexual maturity, some parents dread the arrival of puberty. In turn, they may take the opportunity to discourage promiscuity using scare tactics that center on sexually transmitted diseases. As children try to cope with confusing changes in their bodies, they are in very vulnerable emotional states. Now is not the time to unload your fears; instead, approach the situation with a calm, supportive attitude. There will be plenty of time for warnings in the months and years ahead.

Don't promote guilt. Many parents experience sadness and even depression in response to a child's development. They may grieve the perceived loss of their "babies" and project this sense of loss onto their children. Be careful not to project your feelings onto your child . If you are having difficulty managing sadness about your family's changing dynamics, consider talking to a therapist. Whatever you do, don't make the child feel guilty about natural changes to his or her body.

Celebrate the changes. You can alleviate a lot of negative emotions by framing puberty as a positive change in your child's life. Express how proud you are to see your child growing up. Talk about the many new experiences and opportunities he or she will gain in the coming years. Instead of marking puberty as the end of an era, celebrate the occasion as the beginning of something great.

How to Talk to Your Child

Some parents feel uneasy talking to their young children about the realities surrounding puberty. If words like "penis," "vagina" and "menstrual fluid" make you nervous, spend some time practicing in front of a mirror beforehand. Remember that you are the grown up, and it's important to act like it when talking to your child about important life issues.

With all that said, you don't have to overwhelm your child with loads of information all in one face-to-face discussion. Instead, look for talkable, teachable moments wherever you can find them. Life can send you golden invitations for frank discussions. Whether it's a television show, a magazine article or something you see on the street, take advantage of any opportunity to communicate with your child.

Remember that talking about puberty, bodies and sex is just another part of a connected, nurturing relationship. Instead of limiting your guidance to one big talk, commit to offering consistent guidance throughout the coming months, years and beyond.

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