Parent, Teacher, Activist
We’ve talked before about making sure that you provide an open opportunity for your children to talk with you about sexuality. An important part of that conversation is talking with your children about the changes that puberty will bring to their bodies. According to the National Institute of Health, puberty usually starts between the ages of 10-14 for girls and 12-16 for boys. But, the National Research Center for Women & Families says that studies dating back to 10 years ago suggest that almost half of African-American girls and about 15% of White girls are showing signs of puberty as early as the age of 8. You may not have expected it, but if your 7 or 8-year-old daughter is beginning to show some early signs of puberty, that may not necessarily be unusual. Signs of puberty include:
Changes in your body can be uncomfortable and upsetting if you’re not expecting them, so it’s important for parents to start talking with their children early about the changes that will occur. Since some girls are beginning to show signs of puberty as early as the age of 7, this means parents need to start talking with children about how their body will be changing at that age. Even if your child’s body isn’t changing, some of her/his classmates may be, and understanding what’s happening will help them be more supportive of the changes their friend may be going through.
A great book for girls that I’ve personally used with all three of my daughters is The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls, which is an American Girl book. This book is very girl friendly and has great illustrations. I’ve used it to talk with my daughters starting at the age of 7, and they were able to understand it and enjoy it. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t just address “sex,” it talks about body changes and how to take care of your body. Topics range from hair to skin, how to choose a bra and breast development, how to choose healthy foods and respond to the over focus on food and weight that some girls in puberty start dealing with, menstruation and more. Because the book is divided up into different topics, you can also choose the things that are most appropriate for your child’s age and focus on those. For boys, I’ve been told that What’s Happening to My Body and It’s Perfectly Normal are good books, however, I haven’t used either. I’d love to here recommendations for books for boys from those who’ve found one they really like.
If anyone has other books for girls or boys that are good to jumpstart a conversation on puberty, please share them! The great thing about books like this is that you can read parts of them with your child to begin the conversation about body changes and then move into answering their questions. Some parents are uncomfortable talking about this, so having a guide can be really helpful. Here are some more suggestions on how to talk with your child about puberty.
Talking about puberty is an important conversation. You don’t want your child to be one of those who starts experiencing body changes and thinks there’s something wrong with them because nobody told them that this would happen! Body changes are natural and good, and your calm, open communication about them will allow your child to feel confident as their body begins to change.