How to Teach Our Children About Their Changing Bodies
What an exciting and mysterious topic!
Our children’s bodies are changing and not only is that perfectly natural, but it’s also wonderfully healthy. There’s really no telling when their bodies will start maturing and nearing puberty. Many children are experiencing early signs of puberty younger and younger these days. A study in 2010 revealed that not a small number of girls were going through puberty as early as 7 years old. Boys are going through puberty now around 2 years younger than they were 10 years ago. While this may not be a stage you’re ready for, it’s important that we learn how to talk to our children about their bodies.
Start The Conversation Early On
The earlier we talk to them about their bodies, the more comfortable it will be for both of you to discuss the new and unfamiliar changes they could be going through. Starting early lays the groundwork for what’s to come and can also help them build a balanced relationship with their own bodies. We’re going to go ahead and assume that we all want our children to feel safe, comfortable and confident in and with their bodies. You can start early on by naming body parts, teaching them their roles in keeping them healthy and develop the conversation as their bodies develop.
A Little Bit About Puberty
Many girls will start going through puberty around 8 years old. This doesn’t mean they are going to start menstruating, but they may start developing breasts, and hair under their arms and around their pubic area. Though it may seem early, this may be a good moment to start explaining to your daughter about menstruation in a way that doesn’t make her feel scared or ashamed.
Boys will start growing hair around their genitals, underarms and face. Many boys can start going through puberty between 10-14 years of age, but some will go through puberty even younger than that.
Both boys and girls will sweat more, may experience acne, and can go through growth spurts.
Their bodies, emotions and even their thoughts will also change in many ways. It’s important that we don’t make them feel ashamed about their changing bodies and that we prepare them for what’s to come in the next months and years in a way they can understand and absorb.
Tips on Talking to Your Child About Puberty
For some of us this conversation isn’t going to be that easy and intuitive, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. As parents we have the tools to teach our children about their bodies, even if our parents never taught us about ours.
Here are some tips on how to approach this topic with your child:
- The younger they are, the more vague you may want to be. Keep it short to keep their attention and to work with their level of understanding.
- It’s never too early to start talking to them about their bodies, they aren’t growing up in a bubble, they are going to hear and see things very early on.
- Try not to make a big deal about of the conversation. This may make them feel afraid or overwhelmed. It’s also important to try to look at ease, and not tense or uncomfortable, because they can pick up on that and will mirror that.
- Nicknames are cute and accessible, but no longer useful or appropriate when teaching your child about their genitals. Don’t be afraid to explain and name their body parts, this shouldn’t be a big mystery to them by the time they’re nearing their teenage years.
Don’t forget to take a deep breath. This topic can be difficult for many of us, but the more we get used to it, the less strange the language will feel and the more comfortable our children will feel about their changing bodies. And their confidence, the way they see themselves, and ensuring they feel ‘normal’ is more important than our own discomfort with using certain words or discussing areas of the body. Your child will have questions and we’re sure you have the answers and will know how to deliver those answers to your children.