Puberty can be a challenging and tumultuous time not just for kids, but also for parents. The average age for girls to begin puberty is 11 years and for boys, 12. However, the age puberty begins can vary from 8–14, depending on the child.
As a parent, how do you navigate your way through a time of such huge change? Here are our top tips to help you through:
1. Talk about what to expect
Make sure you talk to your child about the physical changes their body will go through before it happens so they’re prepared. Be prepared to bring the topic up and don't wait for them to ask – some kids never do. It’s especially important to explain what menstruation is before your daughter gets her period, so she isn’t shocked or frightened when it comes.
2. Talk over a long period of time
Talking about puberty and sex doesn’t have to be a single, sit-down conversation where you explain everything, ie, “the talk”, and then the subject is never raised again. Look for opportunities to talk about puberty or sex over a long period of time – weeks, months or years. By being open, honest and available to answer your kid’s questions right from when they’re little (about anything) then it makes communication easier as they get older.
3. Be open and honest
Kids can be exposed to a whole lot of misinformation about puberty and sex from their friends, movies, TV or the internet. So it’s really important that you provide them with accurate information and be honest. Talk to you child about the changes both sexes go through. It’s also good to talk about pregnancy, sexual orientation, safe sex/contraception and consent.
4. Explain the physical AND emotional changes
When talking about puberty the focus is often on the physical changes, but it’s important to talk about the emotional changes as well. Feeling self-conscious, mood swings and intense emotions are all par for the course during puberty. It’s also a time for your child to forge their identity, and they’ll want to feel accepted by their peers and be “cool”.
5. Puberty and sex are normal and natural
While some parents may feel embarrassed talking to their kids about puberty, remember it’s a completely natural process that everybody goes through. And sexual feelings and acts are normal and natural too. You child will take their cue from you, so if you feel embarrassed or awkward or convey the message that sex is shameful or wrong, they will take that on board.
Encourage your children to ask questions and keep the lines of communication open. And remember knowledge is power – by talking them through this weird and wonderful stage in life you are giving your children the tools to navigate through puberty as smoothly as possible!
Changes at puberty Family Planning, NZ
Your body Family Planning, NZ
What's happening to my body? Stages of puberty in girls Kidspot.co.nz
Positive puberty: year 6–8 sexuality education TKI, Ministry of Education, NZ