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Teaching Kids About Puberty

Moms demonstrate unflappable expertise when their young son or daughter needs an explanation about a loose baby tooth. You answered the question, “Why is my tooth wobbly, Mommy?” and never blinked. However, as puberty approaches, and the topic of discussion includes their child’s changing body, moms may lose self-confidence, and, well, squirm a bit. That’s okay. It’s natural for you to feel a bit uneasy, but you can vanquish those feelings and regain your mom poise. Remember that your child already looks to you as a source of expert knowledge because you earned her trust. Sure, the topic is new, because puberty is a new chapter in your child’s evolving growth and development. Moms can help their children to understand and prepare for the changes that accompany puberty.

Review the Facts

High school football teams benefit from practice drills and pep rallies that build the motivation and confidence of the student athletes. Well, perhaps you need to practice as well, so cheer yourself on by reviewing the facts you want to discuss with your child. If you have questions of your own, your child’s pediatrician is a good beginning place to get the answers. When children collaborate with other children to find answers to touchy questions, the answers can resemble a child’s fairy tale. Your accurate information can correct these misconceptions or clarify sketchy facts.

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Initiate Discussions Early

The onset of puberty typically occurs between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls, and between the ages of 10 and 16 for boys. Prepare your child for some of the changes she will experience by initiating discussions before changes appear. Unlike your child’s toddler and preschool years, when she readily brought questions to your attention, your child may feel uncomfortable about approaching you with questions about puberty. Moms can’t rely on questions as a gauge of readiness for a discussion about puberty.

Normalize Change

Change is the essence of puberty, and many of the changes alter your child’s physical appearance. Your child may not express concern about bodily changes, but may feel distressed if the timing or manifestation of changes cause her to appear different from her peers. Help your child to understand that all children undergo significant changes during puberty, and that it’s normal for every child to exhibit changes in a unique manner and on an individual timetable. Talk about your own experiences and feelings during puberty.

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Disseminate Information Over Time

Plan to have more than one discussion about puberty with your child. A single discussion that attempts to cover every detailed topic related to puberty may prove completely exhausting for you and a bit overwhelming for your child. Plan several follow-up discussions, and expect your child to have many questions after your initial discussion. Remind your child that you remain accessible to address new topics, and answer questions about previous topics.

Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.

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