Hi, I'm Cath Hakanson, a mother, sexologist and health professional with over 23 years of clinical expertise. This article is based on the latest research, current recommendations, expert opinion and a good dose of common sense.
You’re not alone if the thought of puberty for kids is something that makes you want to squirm. Most of us parents do feel like squirming! And most of us are unprepared for puberty as it creeps up quickly. One day you’ve got an easygoing kid and before you know it, they have been visited by the puberty fairy!
So when it comes to puberty for kids, what do kids need to know, why do they need to know it and when should they know it by?
So what do kids need to know about puberty? Simply, they need to know what is going to happen to them, why it is going to happen, when it will happen and how to care for their new body.
They need to know that a thing called puberty is going to happen to them. Puberty is when their body changes from being a kid’s body to an adult body. Their body changes as well as their feelings and their relationships with family and friends.
Puberty happens because we all have to grow up one day! Puppies and kittens grow up and so do humans!
And a big part of growing up is to start the next generation. Which means becoming fertile (becoming a parent). For boys, this means sperm and ejaculation. For girls, it is about ova (eggs) and menstrual periods.
Part of being fertile also means that they’ll start to have sexual thoughts and feelings. Which means that they will now start to see sex as something that they might just want to someday do. Instead of being something gross that their parents do!
Puberty will start when kids are 8 or 9 but you won’t see any physical signs until a few years later. For girls, you can expect to start seeing physical changes when they are aged between 11 and 13. And for boys it is a little bit later, usually sometime between the ages of 12 and 13. Plus or minus a few years!
Everyone experiences puberty differently, which means that some kids may be the first in their group of friends to change or the last.
So it is important for your child to know that puberty will happen when their body is ready for it to happen. That puberty happens to all kids, and it is completely normal.
As their body changes, your child will need to do so some new things to care for it. They might need to wash their hair more often because it now gets oily. They’ll need to wear deodorant so that they don’t smell too strongly of body odour. Girls will start to menstruate and will need to manage their periods. Boys will start to have a lot more erections and may start to have wet dreams (where they ejaculate during their sleep).
So there are a whole lot of new things about puberty for kids that they will need to learn in order to care for their new grown up body.
Kids need to know about puberty because one day, it is going to happen to them.
Think about it for a moment. If your body was going to start changing in a major way, wouldn’t you want to know about it? And preferably before things started to change?
So if you don’t want your child to be scared by the changes that are happening to them, then you need to let them know about puberty (before it starts). This way they will be prepared and they will see puberty as a normal thing that happens to all kids. And not something to be scared of or to be worried about!
So when should you start talking about puberty for kids? It depends on the age of your child.
For boys, you can start talking anytime from the age of 9.
For girls, it can be anytime from the age of 8.
And if your child is already starting to show some physical signs, like pubic or underarm hair, then you probably need to start talking now!
You can start talking about puberty for kids from a very young age. By talking when kids are younger, you are gently introducing the concept to them that one day their body will start to change from being a child’s body to an adult body. Kids as young as three or four will have no trouble grasping this concept. They won’t really understand why, but they will accept it as just another thing that will one day happen to them. They will see puberty as being a normal part of growing up. Instead of it as being something to be scared of.
Kids as young as three or four will have no trouble grasping this concept. They won’t really understand why, but they will accept it as just another thing that will one day happen to them. They will see puberty as being a normal part of growing up. Instead of it as being something to be scared of.
There are many possible opportunities for talking about puberty for kids.
These are all situations where you can provide your child with some basic information that will satisfy their curiosity. They don’t need a highly detailed answer, just an answer that satisfies their curiosity.
So your three-year-old walks into the bathroom when you’re changing your tampon or pad and they ask why you’re bleeding down there. You might say ‘ That is called my period and it happens to all girls when they are grown up’.
You don’t need to worry about giving kids too much information. Anything they don’t understand will be forgotten because it just won’t make sense to them. Puberty for kids is processed in the exact same way that kids process any new information that they hear. If it is relevant, they may remember some of what they learnt. If it isn’t relevant, they will just forget about it.
If you’re unsure about how to get started with talking about this puberty thing, then buying a book about puberty for your child is a great way to start. You can find a comprehensive list of puberty for kids, books here.