How to Talk to Your Kids about Puberty?

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Unlike western countries, talking about sex or giving children “the talk” is not a common thing in India but with growing education and awareness among new Indian parents, communicating with their kids and providing sex education is being encouraged. It may sound quite awkward but always remember, if you are not going to give those answers then someone else will, and you do not want that.

Parents who are determined to give “the talk” are often confused about how they would know that it is the right time to do? Answer is pretty simple, look for the signs. Whenever you find them getting curious about “adult stuff”, that’s the right time. Also, remember that “the talk” is not something you give your child once in their life; it’s not something you tell your child when they are 13 and never mention of it ever again; “the talk” should be given from as early as the child develops their reasoning ability. Of course, you have to be thoughtful enough to understand what kind of topics they will be able to understand at which age. For example, if you find them exploring their genitals, that is when you should ask them, “What are you thinking?” and believe me, this will head to a whole conversation.

Onset of Puberty

Puberty makes sexual reproduction possible. It comes between the age of 10 to 16 in both sexes, earlier in girls and later in boys.  This is the period when a girl starts turning into a woman, attaining more feminine characteristic both physically and emotionally and boys heading to become a man acquiring masculine characteristics.

For girls – Budding nipples, growth of pubic hair, getting round and curvy body figure, acne etc. are some of the primary changes. Menstruation is the hallmark to determine sexual maturity. Explaining your daughter about menstrual health, what happens, why it happens and the biology behind it is essential. The more you answer the more questions they will have. It’s absolutely okay if you don’t’ have all the answers. Ask them for some time and get back to them as soon as possible. Tell them about PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) and the hormonal changes, which brings mood swings, irritability, feelings of fatigue etc. Also, buy a good book for more in-depth scientific information for them, so they do not have to run to you for every single information. In such cases, just be there for them. Listen to their problems, their rantings; does not matter how futile it sounds to you. To have someone who listens to you builds trust and that is the thing, which you will need in your relationship the most at their age.

For Boys – Pubic and underarm hair, facial hair, increase in size of penis, growth of testicles are some observable changes. Deepening of voice, morning erection and having nightfall also becomes very common.

Masturbation

Masturbating is a normal and healthy thing to do regardless of what gender they are. It is a healthy way to release sexual tension and there is nothing wrong about it. Often there are some stereotypes or superstitions associated with it and it is also considered as a ‘sin’ in some religions; make them aware of it but also assure that it’s not ‘sinful’ at all.

Sex and opposite Sex

Educating them only about their sexuality is an incomplete sex education. Children are curious about the “opposite sex” too. Explain them their anatomy. Choose the words properly but say them clearly. Call ‘penis’ as ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ as ‘vagina’. Do not give them cute names to reduce awkwardness. Shying away from saying the words will subconsciously give a message that it’s something ‘bad’ or ‘shameful’ thing to talk. Tell them about how babies are born. You can also take help of educational videos available on internet. “Pappu and Papa” is an extremely good mini web series created keeping Indian parenting context in mind.

Protection

Sex and sex related problems should be your first concern. Having sex is normal but having unprotected sex comes with consequences. Pregnancy, STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) is a price, which irresponsible actions has to pay. Unwanted pregnancy at an early age can cause extreme psychological distress and even trauma in case of abortion. Keeping the child or aborting, both are unhealthy options so one should concentrate on avoiding the possibilities. STD’s can have HIV, which at its worst can evolve into AIDS, which is a fatal disease. Also, stress on the importance of hygiene.

Advices

  1. Be friendly enough so they can feel comfortable to ask whatever they want to. It is a learning experience for both, you and your child.
  2.  Ask them to make a list of topics they would like to know about “grown- ups”
  3. Keep a tab on how is sex education being provided at school.
  4. Encourage them to ask questions.
  5. If possible, have the same sex parent talk about it, as older kids gets uncomfortable with opposite sex parent.
  6. Share your experiences and stories from your teenage to lighten up their mood. Your kid will enjoy and will be able to relate more with you as a friend than as a parent.
  7. Include tasks, which will help them in bonding with you.

Teenage is an essential period of life, how your child will turn out as an adult depends a lot on this phase. You may have a busy lifestyle or a tight schedule but if you want to see your child blooming into a good adult, you will need to find time for them. Parents often say, “Our kids will always be our kids.” So give them a reason to feel the same.

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