Parenting Matters: Tips for talking to kids about puberty

Lance Williams, Health Educator for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education
Lance Williams, Health Educator for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education

The Collaborative Youth Team’s column, “Parenting Matters!” is a partnership of 24 youth and family service organizations and agencies. Each month, a different partner offers practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth. This month’s column is shared by Lance Williams, health educator for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education.

Having “the talk” about puberty with your child can be one of the most uncomfortable, scary, memorable and rewarding conversations you ever have. When tackling puberty, it is important to create a framework for your talk, open pathways of communication, and to have creative conversation starters.

The first and most important thing to do before having the talk is assessing your child’s readiness.

As a parent/guardian, you know best when it comes to understanding your child’s comfort level. Assessing how much and exactly what information they’re ready to hear will help build the foundation for your talk.

Whether it’s pimples, hair growth or strategies to help them deal with peers having just a few key topics in mind will help start the conversation and also leave room for future talks.

Research tells us that kids identify parents and caregivers as their biggest influence when it comes to learning about puberty.

We often feel we need to know all the answers to our children’s questions, but in reality, what you know is a lot less important than how you respond. Let them know there is no such thing as a bad question. If you don’t know the answer, you won’t make something up, but you’ll go out and find the information. This will leave children with the impression that you are an “askable parent/guardian.”

Some questions your child asks might leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. It is OK to say, “You know, I’m uncomfortable talking about puberty because my parents never talked with me about it. But I want us to be able to talk about anything, so please come to me if you have any questions.” This lets your child know that you are being honest and that you are there to help with anything they need.

Also remember that kids are sometimes scared and not sure how to directly ask questions, which may lead to “questions behind questions.” Pay attention to body language and think about all the events taking place in your child’s life that might be prompting certain questions.

Now that the framework is set, and pathways for communication have been opened, it’s time to get creative about how to start “the talk” about puberty with your child.

Teachable moments provide opportunities to ease into conversations, especially ones dealing with puberty. Saying things like “have you noticed how tall some of the kids in your class are this year?” or “I’m running to the store to get myself some deodorant, want to come and get some for yourself?” are subtle ways to start talking to your child about puberty.

For more information, visit www.robertcrown.org and click the ‘Parent Education PEP’ link or register your school/group for our Puberty Education Programs at 630-325-1900. Let the experts at the Robert Crown Center help you start the conversation.

This column is courtesy of KidsMatter, Collaborative Youth Team facilitator. To access the Community Resource Guide and partner contact information, visit www.KidsMatter2us.org and www.ParentsMatterToo.org.

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