When kids are toddlers or preschoolers, they start asking questions about their bodies – and even yours. It can be stressful if you aren’t prepared or sure about the answers – but it doesn’t need to be! If you start early and talk to them often, then talking about puberty when they get older will be a lot easier.
To help you out, here are some facts about their changing bodies, as they grow from a young preschooler to an older child who’s going through puberty. With the right answers, you’ll be more comfortable, and so will your kids.
So, what’s puberty?
Puberty is the stage of life when the body of a child transitions into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty is a normal and healthy part of development for girls and boys.
For most girls, the changes start between 8 and 12 years of age, with breast growth and then pubic and underarm hair growth. On average, girls start having their periods when they are around 12 years old. But it’s also perfectly normal for a girl to have her first period anywhere between the ages of 10 and 15 years.
For most boys, puberty starts a bit later, between 10 and 14 years of age. Hair will start growing around the genitals, in the armpits, and on the face. As puberty progresses in boys, the penis grows longer and wider, the testicles continue to enlarge, and the voice deepens. Nocturnal erections (“wet dreams”) happen towards the end of these changes, since the male body is maturing sexually and able to produce sperm and semen.
Tips on Discussing Puberty with Your Kids
Now that you are more familiar with the facts, here are some suggestions that can ease you into discussions about puberty with your kids.
Use actual body part language for genitals. For girls, the genital area around the vagina is called the vulva. For boys, there’s the penis and the testicles.
Keep things short when talking to younger children.
Use day-to-day situations to trigger conversations. Kids will ask questions.
Don’t wait to have “the talk”. It’s never too early – kids are getting exposed to these topics in school and on TV a lot sooner than you think!
Puberty is a normal part of growing up. Remember that, and remind your kids that there isn’t anything “wrong” with the changes that their bodies are going through.
Fake it until you make it. Try not to look uncomfortable or embarrassed, so your kids don’t feel that way, either.
Answers to Common Questions
Why do you have hair down there/why does daddy have hair on his penis? Answer for a younger child: Getting hair around your penis is a normal part of growing up for boys. Answer for an older child: Getting hair around your penis is a normal part of growing up for boys. There are a bunch of changes that happen to your body as you become an adult. You’ll get more hair all over your body and especially in your private parts and in your arm pits. You’ll get taller and your muscles will grow too.
What is that stuff you are putting that in your armpits? Short answer: This is deodorant. Grown ups use it so their armpits aren’t stinky. Or sometimes they don’t.
Why do you (or why does mommy) have that weird thing in your/her underwear with blood on it? Answer for a younger child: Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with mommy. She’s not hurt. It’s normal for mommies to bleed from their vaginas sometimes. This pad is like a special band-aid that mommy uses when she has that bleeding.
You could continue these types of conversation depending on the child’s interest. Or, strike it up again the next time a question comes around or you want to keep the conversation going. Visit our website for more information on both male and female puberty.
For younger children: It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie Harris
For older children: What’s Happening to Me? A Guide to Puberty by Peter Mayle and It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris
Dr. Berlan is a physician in the Section of Adolescent Medicine at Nationwide Childcare’s Hospital and associate professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is a researcher, educator, clinician and advocate for young women’s reproductive health.
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