Puberty in youngsters brings about changes and challenges for everyone involved in their lives: parents, siblings, teachers, friends, but especially the youngster, who is the one going through all the changes.
Simply stated, puberty is the time period between childhood and adulthood when boys and girls start experiencing hormonal and physical changes that make them able to produce babies.
Many parents and guardians feel uncomfortable or ill-equipped to talk to their children about puberty and sexuality, but a nationwide survey indicated that 85 percent of preteens and young teens said they would rather get information from parents or guardians than outside sources.
Caregivers need to make themselves more comfortable and knowledgeable about such topics.
We recommend talking about bodily changes and emotional changes during every period of growth and development so that youngsters feel comfortable with their own bodies, their own self images, and their own sexuality. Parents should use appropriate or scientific terminology for body parts and growth patterns so that youngsters are comfortable and mature during discussions with peers or other adults.
Girls should be educated about the changes they encounter during puberty that bring about their production of one egg each month, which, if fertilized by a male’s sperm, can cause a pregnancy.
Girls also should be made aware of the process of menstruation and the related hygiene practices.
Boys must be educated about the changes they deal with in puberty from the growth of more body and facial hair to the production or sperm and fertility, as well as the hygiene-related practices.
Many things are going on with preteens and teens during this time of puberty, which can begin as early as 9 or 10 or may delay until 13 or 14.
Their bodies are changing, their feelings are changing, they are dealing with more mature issues, they are bombarded by media and peers, and they are trying to deal with issues they may not understand or have not even been told about.
Sometimes youngsters tell me they are glad to get the information in puberty classes in school because they weren’t aware of such things and they were feeling like “freaks.” They certainly need to be cross-educated, as well.
Boys need to be aware of changes that girls deal with during puberty, and girls need to be aware of changes that boys deal with. This can aid all preteens and teens in building better relationships and choosing to make good choices about abstinence from sexual behaviors that could lead to unintended pregnancies.
Parents and guardians, please take time to talk to your youngsters about the changes that will happen to them during puberty.
If you are not comfortable, get some materials from the library, your doctor, school nurse or Health Department.
Let them know that they are dealing with a natural, normal part of growing up, and you will be supportive of their feelings or questions.
Growing up is tough enough for youngsters even when they have good self esteem, good decision making skills, and adequate knowledge of their own changing bodies as well as those of their peers. Don’t want until a certain time or a certain age to have “the talk.”
Talk with your youngsters constantly about age appropriate information regarding their body, their sexuality, their health, their growth and development, and their over-all living process that begins at birth and ends with death.
For more information, contact Carolyn M. Burtner, Health Educator, Clark County Health Department, 859-744-4482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.