Puberty is a scary time for children. Their bodies are changing and they rarely understand what is happening to them. They are looking for answers but do not know where to find them. Often school programs teach them something about puberty, but this does not mean that they understand what is being taught. Because some children go through puberty later or earlier than others they do not always understand what is occurring when they learn about it in class. They are also learning about it from someone they do not know very well and who they might not trust. For many adults talking about puberty is a tricky matter. They are embarrassed about it just as are their children. So how can an adult who is already embarrassed about puberty speak to a child who is clearly going to be embarrassed about it? Many people fear having the discussion with a child. They even dread it. So how will you do it yourself? This is a fairly difficult question, but here are some tips that will help you to speak with a child about puberty.
1. Determine what the child might already know about puberty. Some kids have learned about puberty in school. Find out what they know and don’t know. You can do this by talking to the child or to their teacher. Another important thing to find out is if the child has already experienced puberty in some way. If the child is experiencing puberty the talk needs to go a little bit differently. You will need to be very understanding and explain what is occurring to the child’s body or emotions. Make sure that they understand why the changes are occurring and what they will lead to.
Plan to talk frequently with your child.
2. Regardless of whether or not the child has experienced puberty you will need to explain the basics of what is going on. The best approach is to be informative and serious, but not so much that you scare the child. Help them to feel comfortable and to laugh about certain things. You do not want to make the child paranoid, but you also do not want them to think that puberty is to be taken lightly. A serious but not severe approach will probably be good. Plan to make a few jokes.
3. Don’t go over the child’s head. If you are too scientific or abstract you will probably only do harm. Think about how you might have best been told this information. Would it have been through a complicated scientific report? You might want to use some pictures or charts.
4. Make sure to reassure the child throughout the discussion. Puberty is a scary time and you will need to constantly let the child know that what is happening to their body is normal and expected. Help them to see that it is a good thing and an important part of becoming an adult.
5. Don’t end the conversation there. Many parents dread the talk about puberty so they only have it once. If you give the impression of being nervous then the child will feel that there is something to be nervous about. They also will feel that they cannot come and speak to you about these issues in the future. This is a serious problem. You need to realize that the child might need to speak about puberty more than once. Make it clear that puberty is something that they can speak about with you any time they need to. This will help them to know that puberty is not such a bad thing.