Teaching kids about hygiene and body changes
When kids are toddlers or preschoolers, they start asking questions about their bodies—and even yours. It can be embarrassing, confusing, and stressful for both kids and parents, especially if you aren’t prepared or sure about the answers. Preparing for these conversations feels most natural, open, and feels less cringe-worthy if you start early and talk to them often as things come up, starting as early as when your child can talk to you. If you create this more natural way of talking, talking about puberty when they get older will be a lot easier.
What is puberty?
Puberty is the stage of life when the body of a child transitions into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty is a normal and healthy part of development for girls and boys and can be a very normal and non-embarrassing point of conversation, too.
Some parents simply don’t know what they ought to when it comes to bodies and puberty, especially when their child is a different sex than they are. It’s not unusual for learning to need to happen for both the adult and kid. With the right answers, you’ll be more comfortable, and so will your kids. Besides performing their own Internet research, many adults don’t know where to get information to help them through this process, especially when it comes to obtaining tips for having these conversations in relaxed and relatable way. The Fort Collins Youth Clinic realizes this gap and offers community education parents and kids can attend together; the Healthy Transitions program are two, separate programs for girls and boys.
The classes are for kids aged 9-11*. “The class is designed to have a parent or other guardian attend, as there are “talk sessions” throughout the class when the girls are encouraged to discuss things with them.” We know there is more to puberty than body changes, and this class covers physical, emotional, and social changes associated with puberty while promoting positive body image and healthy lifestyle choices.”
Tips on discussing puberty with your kids
Now that you are more familiar with the facts, here are some suggestions that can ease you into discussions about puberty with your kids.
- Use actual body part language for genitals. Made up words or slang terms can unintentionally disempower and confuse kids.
- Keep things short when talking to younger children. Not only do their shorter attention spans impact their ability to stay interested, talking too long can make kids feel ‘trapped’ in an uncomfortable conversation.
- Use day-to-day situations to trigger conversations. Kids will ask questions, so answer them honestly when they do.
- Don’t wait to have “the talk’. It’s never too early—kids are getting exposed to these topics in school and on TV a lot sooner than you think.
- Puberty is a normal part of growing up. Remember that, and remind your kids there isn’t anything “wrong” with the changes that their bodies are going through.
- Fake it until you make it. Try not to look uncomfortable or embarrassed, so your kids don’t feel that way, either.