This week, Cath Hakanson thought we could look at the most common questions parents ask about the puberty talk, and I agree. Here’s what she wrote, Enjoy!
How do I get started?
Well, lucky for you, there’s quite a few different ways to get started! I cover quite a few of them in The Parents’ Guide to Puberty, and I’ll talk about one of them in greater detail with you now.
The easiest way to get started with the puberty talk is with a book!
I love books, as they tell you what to say in an age-appropriate way. Which means you don’t need to worry about forgetting anything. And you can focus on talking (instead of remembering). Plus it makes getting started sooo much easier!
So, how do you choose the right book?
There are lots of children’s books about puberty. And it is very easy to feel overwhelmed.
So pick the book list for the age of your child. Once you open up the lists, you’ll find them sorted into books that do or don’t mention sexual intercourse. I do this for a very good reason!
Now, you know your child best. Some kids are overwhelmed by the thought of puberty, which means it is helpful to read a book that doesn’t include sexual intercourse. This allows them to focus on learning about the changes that will be happening to their body, rather than stressing about the things they might be expected to do (like sex).
Plus reading a puberty book that avoids sex means it can be less stressful for you too! Especially if you’ve yet to talk about sexual intercourse. Remember, it is about conversations, with an emphasis on the plural. You can talk about sex once your child is used to the idea of puberty.
If you’ve already had conversations about puberty and/or sex, then there’s a good chance that your child will be nonplussed about sexual intercourse, so it’ll be safe to grab a book that also talks about sex. (I just want to add that most of the puberty books give very simplistic explanations of sex. In books for older kids, the explanations become more detailed).
So, how to get started with a book.
Sometimes it can help if you pre-warn your child. Let them know that you want to start talking to them about puberty. That puberty is the time when they change from being a kid to an adult. It happens to all kids and it happens slowly (years not days). And it’s important for them to know what changes will be happening to them and how to care for their new body.
Let them know that you have a book about puberty, and you will be reading it together.
You’ll need to think about the best way to read this book with your child. Does it need to be completely private where others can’t overhear you. Or will your child be happy to sit at the kitchen table with you, whilst their siblings are watching a movie in the other room?
If you already have a family routine of bedtime stories, then it is a lot easier, as you can read the puberty book together then. Just let your child know that you have a new book to read at night with them. (I only have two kids, so I would read with one kid at bedtime, whilst my husband read with the other. My youngest is now 11, and we still read together each night. Mainly because it is time that we spend with each other, and he still wants it to happen.)
If you don’t do the bedtime stories, then you need to get a little creative. You’ll need to make the time to read the book together in a private space eg snuggled up together on your child’s bed one night, one Saturday afternoon whilst you’ve distracted your other kids with a movie on the tv and popcorn, on a bench at your local park with a takeaway bubble tea (yep, that’s how I bribe my kids). I’m not averse to a little bit of bribery to get kids alone and ready to listen. What’s important is the end result, not how you got there!
What if my child won’t read with me?
This can happen as kids get older, which means you need to get creative. Your child may not be keen on books, or they might not be keen on puberty books.
One way around this is handing the book over for them to read by themself. You could try saying, ‘Hey I have a book for you to read about puberty. I’ll let you read it and we’ll talk about it.’ Make sure they know that if they have any questions, that they can ask you.
And then you need to make time to discuss it. After a couple of weeks, start asking them casual questions about it. You could try saying, ‘Hey, have you started to read that book that I gave you? What did you think?’. You may need to persist and try to ask questions that don’t require a yes or no answer.
Or you could say, ‘What did that book say about deodorant?’ and then talk about whether they want to pick some deodorant to start using.
Anyway, in case you haven’t guessed, I am a huge fan of using books for starting the puberty talk(s). Which is why I spend a lot of time looking for new books that will help to make the conversation easier!
Is my child too young for this?
Maybe or maybe not. Puberty happens whether kids are emotionally ready for it or not. Isn’t it better that your child is prepared for the changes that will soon be happening to them, and for them to know that they can turn to you for support, guidance and information? Then to be left ignorant and worried about whether they are normal (or not)?
I have a quiz here, that will help you to work out whether your child is ready to hear about puberty (or not).
Won’t I be encouraging my child to be sexual?
No, not at all. All you’re doing is giving them information about what will be happening to them. You’re also guiding them, because you’re telling them what sexual behavior and attitudes are okay, and not okay, in your family.
Research tells us that kids who have received good sex education are less likely to be sexually active and when they are, they will be much safer than their uneducated peers. Information isn’t permission, it simply empowers your child to make smart (and informed) decisions.
My child hasn’t asked any questions yet, so maybe they aren’t interested?
Some kids ask questions, and some don’t. But it doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. It just means that you will have to be
the first one to bring it up. So even if they appear uninterested, it’s important to keep on talking, as they are still listening. And one day, they might shock you by actually responding!
What matters is that you are showing your child that you are willing to talk to them about puberty, love, sex and relationships. You are letting them know that they can come and talk to you about anything. That’s what really matters.
What if I say too much, or not enough? Or even the wrong thing?
Possibly, but it doesn’t really matter if you do. When we take the approach of having open and honest conversations that are ongoing, it means that we don’t have to get it right every time.
If you forget to say something it doesn’t matter, as you can say it next time. If you say the wrong thing it doesn’t matter, as no-one is perfect and we all get things wrong. So you can correct next time. If you say too much it doesn’t matter, as your child will forget most of what you said anyway. Which is why you need to keep on repeating things.
That is the joy of having open and honest conversations, it removes the pressure to be perfect and it allows you to improve over time (like a good bottle of red wine!).
What do I talk about?
What you talk about depends on the age of your child and what stage of development they are in! So you’ll be talking about the physical, emotional and social changes that will be happening. And talk about what’s coming up next, so your conversations are relevant and meaningful. For example, my 11 year old knows that a pregnancy can be prevented, but my 15 year old knows what the different contraceptive methods are and how they all work (she is interested in this as she is starting to think about sex as something she may one day want to do).
Now, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by what to talk about and when, you can relax!
As I have a resource that will take the stress out of the puberty talks – The Parents’ Guide to Puberty. It gives you everything you need to get started with the puberty talk(s).