It’s unavoidable but something that needs to be done. No, I am not talking about doing your taxes or a getting a yearly mammogram. Albeit, those are much easier to do than talking to your tween about puberty.
Although you may hope someone else does it, you are the best source of information when it comes to talking to your children about puberty and the body and emotional changes that come along with it. Here are a few reasons to consider why having “the talk” with your children is important.
Reason #1 You can control how much you want them to know at that particular time in their life. Break down the talk in phases based on their age, beginning at around age 10. Then determine how much to share with each passing year. This approach will make it less overwhelming for you and your son or daughter.
Reason #2 As children enter their tweens, more than their bodies will undergo changes. It will seem they are on an emotional roller coaster. Their moods will change from one day to another. Their perceptions of others and themselves are altered as they become aware of the changes in their own bodies. Having open discussions with your children will reassure them that what they are feeling is normal and that they should not feel ashamed.
Reason #3 Intercept before the media or their friends do. Skewed images of teens that are unnaturally thin, physically mature, and “perfect” according to media standards are everywhere, from the Internet, TV, and magazines. These images imprint a false sense of expectations, which are difficult or impossible to fulfill. Peers can also be an influence depending on the amount or lack of information they have been given by their own parents or guardians. It is best to well-inform your son or daughter, even using online or library sources to show the biology that explains it all.
How do you get over the embarrassment of talking to your tween? It’s best to find a balance in your role as a parent. Although it may be tempting to be their buddy, it’s important they see you more as a parent and someone who can help them through this difficult time. Depending on the relationship you foster with your son or daughter from a young age, either parent can talk to their tween through this time.
I would recommend asking if they rather talk to their mom, dad, or other relative. In a single parent home, I would recommend this for either boys or girls. Given this choice, children will feel more comfortable asking questions, which should be encouraged so that they do not feel the need to seek answers elsewhere.
I have used The Care and Keeping of You, a book published by American Girl to talk to my daughters about this subject, which includes tips on personal hygiene and feelings. A good book for boys is The Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up You, by Kelli Dunham.
Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.