- Stay calm and consistent.
- Be open.
- Call it what it is.
Puberty is a time when a child’s body is maturing. It is a process that affects the outward appearance of one’s body as well as the chemical or hormonal makeup of a person. Boys and girls go through the stages of puberty when the time is right for their individual body. And oh boy, there are a ton of changes that come with it:
Voices get deeper
Hair starts to grow in new places
Muscle mass increases
New ‘feelings’ emerge, like having a crush and thinking sexual thoughts
Body odors appear out of nowhere
So many changes are happening! As our children start to morph quite literally before our eyes, how do we, as parents, talk about puberty with our kids? I put together a list of quick tips to get you started for having THE talk at home. We recommend these techniques with our OB parents, too.
1) Call it what it is
First things first, I am a firm believer that parents need to use the correct language and terms All. The. Time. This is what I mean:
A penis is a penis, a vagina is a vagina, and breasts are breasts.
Calling our parts what they are will help with body image. So go ahead – help your kids name them confidently! It will show them not to feel shame and embarrassment about them. Plus, speaking unapologetically about our body parts will encourage our kids to talk about the changes they are going through more openly.
2) Dad or mom
Either parent can talk about the changes that are happening, but the same gendered parent may help with the emotional component and have some relatable experiences to help foster coping skills for your child. I recommend that you check out these blog articles from KidsHealth at Nemours or this article on All About Puberty to explain the specific stages of puberty for boys and girls.
3) Stay calm and consistent. No matter what.
#Allthefeelings, good and bad, will start to emerge. Hormonal changes can elicit emotional dysregulation. So, tempers will flair, their feelings will get hurt easily, and other behavioral changes will take place. Remember – stay calm.
And be consistent. It’s no surprise that I love to use the word ‘consistent’ in parent coaching classes. It’s truly one of the best methods for establishing reinforcements and punishments, for example. This remains true for helping our kids cope with the ups and downs of puberty. You can support your child’s seemingly quick mood swings, but you must remain consistent with your limits. Just because puberty knocked on their door doesn’t excuse them from being disrespectful. Stay true to your rules and boundaries regardless of the emotional outbursts and attitudes you may encounter. Role modeling your calmness and consistency will help your child to develop healthy relationships and have strong mental health during this time.
4) Be open
Puberty is a confusing time for our pre-teens/teens, but it can also cause stress and anxiety for our kids. One of the best things we can do as parents is to give our kids the space to talk openly about the changes happening in their bodies. Opening up the conversation with our kids can help them accept the changes, let them know that the changes are normal, and also, prepare them for what’s coming. But to get to the root of these topics means spending more quality time with them, and with that, being totally transparent when it comes to talking about puberty. We love the idea of setting up some private time with your child so they have an opportunity to share you with their feelings and experiences. You can make this an “anytime” conversation: at the dinner table, before bed, and as you’re going about your day. We would love for YOU, as the parent, to be the first influence and authority about these topics in their lives.
But we also understand that with the hormones flaring, not all conversations will be easy. As a parent, be understanding of your child and what they may not be able to articulate to you. In this case, being open and calm will help you in the long run. If your son is having a tough time speaking to what’s happening to his body, allow him the space to become calm and then revisit the situation. It will give him perspective and teach healthy coping skills. Plus, giving them room to think can lead to strong mental health and increased self-confidence.
I really hope these four tips will help you and your kids handle puberty with more ease. Personally, I know how hard it can be to see your children going through these changes. I urge you to reach out to us at any time if you are struggling with talking about puberty with your kids. Or if you want to drop a tip of your own that you found useful with your kids, please do. Either way, I’d love to hear from you!