Why You Must Talk About Puberty

“Dear Mrs. Taylor, We’re moving in March so I was wondering if you could teach puberty before we move?”

I taught puberty to my 5th graders for many years. For the majority of my students, it was new information. (As implied by the letter above.) And, for some students, it was too late. About 15% of girls are starting puberty as young as age seven!

My students felt like they could ask me anything because they trusted and knew me. Most questions I answered. But, some questions should be answered by a parent, not a teacher.

“What do you do if you get your period at school?”

“Why do you get pimples?”

“Mrs. Taylor, how do lesbians have babies?”

“Does sex hurt?”

I assigned parents the homework of talking to their children about everything. Because we know that learners can’t just hear about something once and understand, they need repetition and context to remember.

But, don’t forget that another part of a child’s puberty education is the mis-education at recess.

When the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal made national news, many of my families, for obvious reasons, didn’t let their kids see the newspaper or the television news. But, despite their best efforts, it only took one kid in my class, who knew about the cigar incident, and everyone knew a version of what happened. Pretty soon, my 5th graders new more than I did — yuck!

So, let me gently remind you that you if your children are to understand the correct information about their bodies, it needs to come from you and more than once. Otherwise, they’ll get information from other sources, some correct and some not.

Go back and reread last week’s post on talking to your kids on sex.

Then, check out these books on puberty (recommended on the Imagination Soup Facebook page) and start the discussion about puberty with both boys and girls. And, talk about changes to the other gender as well.

The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (American Girl Library)

My Little Red Book,  a book of first period stories, from Brimful Curiosities

It’s Not the Stork - suggestion from Cami Chaplick

What’s the Big Secret? by D.A. Brown (of Arthur fame) recommended by Gina Warner who said it “is excellent and can be used in bits and pieces depending on how ready the child is for different parts of puberty. The illustrations are helpful too in keeping them interested.”

Ready, Set, Grow (for girls), On your Mark, Get Set, Grow by Lynda Madaras (for boys) and It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris (for boys and girls) – recommended from Evangelina Valencia

Diana Townsend suggested these fiction books, Are You There God, It’s Me, MargaretBeezus and Ramona, and Blubber.

More book suggestions from PBS Kids.

Get over the giggles and just do it. If I could teach my class the parts of the male anatomy while being observed by my vice-principal (yes, horribly true!) then you can talk to your kids in the privacy of your own home.

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  • http://wordplayhouse.com wordplayhouse™

    All good advice. I think it’s so important for the parent to be relaxed and treat the conversation as open and easy, just as if speaking about what they had for lunch or the weather. Children need to feel as much as possible that there isn’t embarrassment around the subject so they feel comfortable coming back to their parent for more questions or help.

  • http://PragmaticMom.com PragmaticMom

    Such good advice but such a squeamish topic for us moms. I gave my daughter a book on it and then did several q and a sessions. That worked pretty well for me and the questions she gave me were more technical in nature trying to understand a diagram of a uterus. I do think that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel as there are so many excellent books out there, but I think you have to talk about it face to face which is so HARD!

    This is the list of books that readers suggested to me:

    http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=2066

    We both picked The Care and Keeping of Me. I personally gave Understanding the Facts of Life to my daughter.

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  • http://www.brimfulcuriosities.com Janelle

    Will have to bookmark this post for the future. Seven? Yikes that’s young.

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