Is there anyone out there who looks forward to talking to their kids about puberty? If so, I’d like to meet them. I’ve never wanted to talk about puberty, not when I was approaching it, going through it or finished it. I definitely did not look forward to discussing it as a parent.
I was working as a public health nurse in our school years program when I was asked to co-facilitate a grade 5 puberty class.
Confession time: I am a public health nurse and I still find it difficult to use proper terms when discussing body parts.
It would be my first time providing this support in the classroom and I was nervous. What would they ask? Would I know the answers? I was blushing at the thought of it.
Did I mention I was eight months pregnant at the time? There was no hiding the obvious there!
I already had three children by this time; they were younger and had asked very few questions about growing up and body changes. I was dreading the day that they would. In the years that followed I’m embarrassed to admit that when my eight year old had a question I re-directed her to my husband! It was a momentary lapse that had me calling her back in haste to answer her query.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about the subject, it can still feel uncomfortable when your children have questions about puberty.
So what is a puberty-talk-phobic to do? Given that I am one myself, I have broken it down into smaller, less stress inducing parts.
#1. When do we need to have “the talk”?
We know that kids come in all personalities. A friend of mine has children who readily ask questions, while another has children who express little curiosity on the subject. Like many things parenting; temperament and personality often drive the discussion, content and timing. My daughter had a knack of asking some pretty big questions in the middle of a busy department store. “So, what is a period?” This happened several times. Though I gave her opportunity to discuss it at more appropriate times she chose to ask….my mother (I’m pretty sure my mom redirected her back to me…hmmm, I see a pattern). My lesson learned… if they ask, try to answer right away (or as soon as you’re in a less public place!).
But what if they don’t ask? You could do one of two things: 1) do a little dance of happiness that you dodged this potentially awkward parenting step or 2) bring it up at a time that seems right. It’s not just about biology of a changing, growing body; it’s about values as well. If you don’t share your values about sexuality with your child, they may adopt someone else’s values or those they see on television. I recommend the second approach.
#2: How do I start?
Start early, answering the little questions. Then you’ll be more comfortable with the big questions. Try not to think about it in terms of your own sexuality or even your kid’s. Think and talk about it in general terms, focusing on the facts. Ideally, approach your child in private when neither of you are likely to be interrupted. Don’t try to get it all done in one talk – start small and see where it goes. Know that it is normal for our kids to be curious about different things and feel good that they feel comfortable getting the answers from you.
#3: What will I say?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to know all of the answers. If you don’t know, it’s okay to say so, with a promise that you will try to find out for your child. There are some great resources available to refer to. By the way, using the proper terms when discussing body parts is a must. Otherwise your child may end up even more confused.
Are you still not sure how you will deal with questions your children may ask about sexuality? The Four Point Plan provides a great approach to help you feel prepared.
Good luck. Remember, when all else fails, take a deep breath and indulge in a little positive self-talk. “I can do this!” “I know more than they do!”
Oh and the grade 5 puberty class? Well it went off without a hitch. Some questions were eye opening but really reinforced the importance of having the talk with my own kids, no matter how much it makes me squirm.
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.