Puberty, it’s an awkward part of growing up for children and parents. All of these changes begin occurring with the human body, things that sometimes aren’t the most pleasant. Our children feel “freaked out” and some parents are “freaked out” too. They are uncomfortable with having the “talk.” This really should not be the case for either involved, but it’s true. Children are uncomfortable talking about the birds and the bees with their parents. Kids clown and make fun and joke about the “changes of life” and sex with their friends, but with their parents, NO WAY! IT’S JUST WEIRD. Parents are uncomfortable too. Having to talk to your child about puberty means having to talk about sex with your child.
The thing that we need to remember is as parents or caregivers of adolescents we must have the conversation and correctly educate our children about puberty and sex. In today’s society our children are over exposed to sexual content and unreliable information through peers, television and other forms of technology. If every was a time to be a parent, it is now.
Here are some tips to help make this “talk” about puberty not so awkward.
- Start talking with your child early. Early on children begin asking questions about little changes to their bodies. Toddlers ask an abundance of questions: “why, why, why?’ Reassure your child that it’s okay to ask questions by being open and honest with them and keep open the line of communication. As they get older, they will feel more comfortable coming to you with personal questions.
- Timing is Everything. Don’t wait until it’s too late to talk to your child about puberty. You should talk to your child between the ages of 9-11. You want to have the conversation with girls before they begin menstruating and before boys begin to experience their changes too. Puberty occurs at different times for all children.
- Know your Stuff. You want to provide your children with accurate information using correct terminology and avoiding slang. You may want to make a quick outline or checklist to make sure to cover all the necessary topics. Robert Crown with the Centers for Health Education provides a checklist for talking to children about puberty on his website to help guide you along the way. You may want to find references from the computer or visit the library for books that will help explain puberty to your child.
- Create a Special Separate Time to Have “the Talk.” Make sure that this is personal. Don’t try to talk to your child while watching tv or while playing a game. Make sure that you have their full attention and that they have yours. Plan to have some time alone and go for dinner, a movie or even a trip to the library or park. The ride there offers opportunity to start discussion and once you reach your destination if you are not finished talking. Stop. Park and continue your “talk.”
- Take your Child to a Class. Local hospitals usually offer health classes for both boys and girls. You can find these classes listed on calendar of events for the hospitals. These classes take a lot of the stress of the caregiver because the instructors are well prepared and educated to address their audiences. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales, Louisiana, offers “growing up” workshops for boys and girls. These workshops cover the changes that occur in adolescents as a result of puberty and are centered around creating open conversation among attendees, mother and daughter or father and son. These workshops are rotated monthly. The next growing up workshop is set for February is for girls and their mom or female caregiver. To learn more, visit our calendar of events.
Whatever your course of action for having “the talk,” remember that both you and your child will be better off by being better informed.
Resource List for Parents
The Healthy Bodies Toolkit: A Parent’s Guide on Puberty for Girls and Boys with Disabilities (2013)
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center-Lend-Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
Sex Education and Children and Young People with an ASD
The National Autistic Society
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Getting Ready for Puberty. Raising Children Network
The Australian Parenting Website
Puberty and Autism Spectrum Disorders Information Sheet
Autism Victoria 2006
Sexuality and Relationship Education for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A professional’s guide to understanding, preventing issues, supporting sexuality and responding to inappropriate behaviors
Davida Hartman, 2014
Talking Together about Growing Up
Scott. L, and Kerr-Edwards, L.