Second only to infancy, adolescence is the biggest development period of a person’s life. Puberty is a time of great change, both physical and emotional, and can be a confusing, challenging, and exciting time for both children and parents. When parents understand their child’s experience, they can offer critical support and guidance.
What is puberty?
Puberty is the process by which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction. It typically starts between the ages of 8 and 14 depending on the sexual and reproductive organs a person may have. During puberty, children experience a wide range of physical and emotional changes as their bodies produce more hormones.
The physical changes of puberty are often the most noticeable. All children may experience growth spurts, acne, changes in body shape, and growth of pubic and underarm hair. Puberty may be characterized by breast development, the onset of menstruation, testicular and penis growth, or a deepening of the voice.
In addition to physical changes, children will also experience emotional changes during puberty. They may become more moody or irritable, or they may become more sensitive and emotional. They may also become more self-conscious about their bodies and appearance, and may want more privacy than before.
How to support your child during puberty
Puberty can be a challenging and important time for children, and parental guidance and support are critical. Here are some tips for supporting your child during puberty:
Start the conversation early
Talk with your child about puberty before it begins. Talking early helps them to feel more prepared and less anxious about the changes that will happen. You can start by talking to them about their bodies and answering any questions they may have. Books are a great way to start the conversation, either by reading together aloud (for younger children) or reading separately and coming together to discuss. Keep reading to check out our recommended books for puberty!
Keep the lines of communication open
Keep talking with your child as they go through puberty, which can last for years. Encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns they may have. Be open and honest, and try to answer their questions as best you can. Again, books are a great tool for both parents and young people to have these conversations, and our Lending Library has various titles for families to check out for free. Our friends at Amaze.org also have great video resources on puberty! Consider watching an Amaze video about puberty, and then talking together.
Puberty can be a challenging time for children, and it is important to be supportive of them. Let them know that what they are going through is normal, and that you are there to support them through it.
Respect their privacy
As children go through puberty, they may become more self-conscious about their bodies and appearance. It is important to respect their privacy and not make them feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Seek professional help if needed
If your child is struggling with puberty, or if you are struggling to support them, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A doctor, therapist, or counselor can offer guidance and support during this time. Puberty may bring up intense feelings of gender dysphoria for some young people, and there are tools and supports that parents can explore and discuss with the help of medical doctors and mental health resources.
In conclusion, puberty is a universal experience that every child will go through. As a parent, it is important to understand what is happening to your child during puberty so that you can offer them the support and guidance they need. By starting the conversation early, keeping the lines of communication open, being supportive, respecting their privacy, and seeking professional help if needed, you can help your child navigate this developmental milestone with confidence and ease.
Recommended Reads: Puberty Edition
Sex-Positive Talks to Have with Kids
Melissa Carnagey, renowned sexuality educator for youth and families, walks you through over 150 conversation starters, reflection exercises, and activities you can begin implementing at every age and stage. This book is perfect for any parent or caregiver that’s ready to normalize the talks and become the trusted adult we all needed growing up!
You-ology: A Puberty Guide for EVERY Body
For curious kids and parents looking to talk about puberty in an inclusive way, You-ology offers fact-based, age appropriate, and body positive information about the physical, social, and emotional changes ahead. Colorful illustrations keep the tone upbeat and engaging, while short stories featuring a cast of diverse characters add relatability and humor.
Adolescencia: Una guía sin prejuicios para padres e hijos
Un verdadero manual útil y práctico alejado de prejuicios para afrontar todos los retos que esta nueva etapa plantea tanto los padres como a sus hijos. La pubertad y la adolescencia son una etapa compleja y llena de dudas. Esta guía ilustrada ofrece consejo claro y cuidado para ayudar a padres y adolescentes a salir adelante con éxito en estos años llenos de cambios. Bienestar emocional, cambios corporales, seguridad en Internet, dinámicas y diversidad familiar, relaciones, sexualidad y aceptación, entre otros muchos temas, están explicados de forma sencilla y sin tecnicismos, con ilustraciones claras e informativas.