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Adventures in Puberty

mother, author, blogger, freelancer

Becoming a Beacon for Our Children

Spring has sprung and the temperature has finally reached 70 degrees where I live. With the birds and the bees returning, it got me thinking about … well, the birds and the bees. But don’t worry, I won’t be talking about that just yet.

I’ll start with something a little less intimidating—puberty. Puberty can strike anywhere between the age of eight and fifteen, although boys usually start a year later than girls.

Puberty marks the start of adolescence when it’s developmentally appropriate for your child to push away from you and begin seeking validation from their peers. (This is just one of the things you can discover in Birth2Work’s Readiness Profile.) So even though I’m not looking forward to this stage, I can take action now to prepare.

Thinking back on all the grief I caused my parents as I stumbled through adolescence, I know the teenage years will be trying. I also know that as my girls stumble, trying to find their way (because some things you really do have to learn the hard way, by making mistakes), I want them to know I will be their beacon for guidance.

I want them to know I will be there for them if they have any questions or need help figuring out how to navigate any situation, no matter what. So as parents, how do we do this? Because just telling them isn’t enough.

How do we open a line of communication that will stay open throughout adolescence and, really, the rest of our lives? We dive right in and show them with what is right in front of them—puberty and the physical changes that are going to be or are already happening to their bodies. And we turn this into an adventure that you will be going on with them. 

We show them we are open to questions and to being uncomfortable.

Laying the Groundwork

Start off by sharing with them that you’d like to discuss the changes they’ll soon be going through, and then find a time that works for both of you. Create a time if need be. This is important.

This time needs to be when you can sit with your child alone, without siblings, without distractions—maybe take them out for an ice cream date and find a nice park bench away from others, or simply create a quiet moment at home, with or without cookies.

When the appointed time comes, sit next to them, as opposed to across from them, to show you are in this with them and that you are not going to talk at them. Let them know that they are about to embark on a rite of passage and will soon begin their journey into adulthood. Then talk with them about the changes their body will be going through and tell them about your experiences during puberty. Wondering what to share?

 Try these talking points to start off:

  • Did anyone sit you down and talk with you like you are talking with them? If so, did they tell you similar things to what you are telling your child?
  • How old were you when you started puberty?
  • Did anything embarrassing happen to you during puberty?

By talking about our experiences and sharing an embarrassing moment we lived through, we’ll be showing our child that we are open to being uncomfortable with them. You can try asking them what they are wondering about. See what comes up. If nothing does, that’s OK.

You’ve planted the seed. They may come to you in a day or two with questions. This whole process can take place in one conversation or many. Take your cue from your child, and take your time if that’s what is warranted.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, there are plenty of books on the subject. Get one and read through it, either on your own before talking with your child or read it with your child. If a story pops into your head while reading, stop and share. Remember, this doesn’t need to happen all at once. In fact, it’s better if you break the conversation up. 

Children, especially children who are entering adolescence, need time to process.

Activity

Going on an Adventure

After you’ve talked about puberty and touched on menstruation, body odor, and shaving with your daughter or body odor and shaving with your son, take your child on a fieldtrip to the store.

If you’ve shopped for deodorant, razors, or feminine products recently, you know how many choices there are. It can be overwhelming when you don’t really know what you’re looking for.

If you have a daughter, take her to the feminine hygiene aisle and let her look around. Talk with her about the things you look for when you purchase sanitary napkins and let her pick out a package of pads that will be hers.

Then purchase them and help her create her own ‘readiness pack’ to put in her bag or backpack so she is prepared whenever puberty happens. (This can contain a pad and change of underwear. Put them in a non-see-through bag.) You can also take her to the deodorant aisle and shaving aisle and let her pick out deodorant and a razor or just let her see what she has to look forward to.

With your son, take him to the deodorant aisle and let him pick one out. Make sure you discuss with him the things you look for when you purchase deodorant or even the one you use. You can also take him to the razor aisle and let him pick one out or just let him see what he has to look forward to.

Do NOT buy anything else on this trip. Even if you just ran out of something. This trip is just for your child and their impending voyage through puberty. 

Focus on the Future

This is what I did with my oldest when she was ten. (With my youngest, I don’t think I’ll wait as long. I think we’ll start our adventure when she’s nine.) Before my then ten-year-old and I discussed puberty and the changes she would be going through soon and took our trip to the store, she was reserved with me, at least about these types of things. I felt like I had to pull teeth to find out what was going on with her. To be frank, I was worried what the teenage years would bring.

After the puberty adventure though, and now that we have approached the topic of sex in a similar fashion, she has been bringing questions to me. She has opened up. I found that when you are open and honest with your child and willing to be uncomfortable with them, discussing moments from your adolescence that you would rather just forget, then they will be too. You will have laid the foundation for your line of communication. But you’re not done.

You need to continue to be available to them. Continue to be honest. Continue to share your experiences around things that are happening in their life. And continue to learn how to be prepared for your child’s current and next phase of life.

In Birth2Work’s Leading Your Child to Success course you will do just that as you learn how to become the leader and mentor your child needs. Do these things and the line of communication will become stronger. But for now, start with puberty.

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