Lorem ipsum dolor amet, modus intellegebat duo dolorum graecis

Follow Us
  /  Child Development   /  How Can I Help My Child Prepare for Puberty?

How Can I Help My Child Prepare for Puberty?

As your child approaches puberty, it marks a significant transition not just in their life, but also in your role as a parent. This development period brings many physical, emotional, and social changes that can sometimes feel overwhelming for both children and their caregivers. However, with the right knowledge and approach, you can help your child feel supported, understood, and prepared for the years ahead. 

To help children prepare for puberty, It’s important to bear in mind that if children look for information online or from friends, this can lead to misconceptions and anxiety, and often results in receiving inaccurate or misleading facts. So make a point of beginning the conversations that come with puberty and adolescence before your child reaches this stage, so they know what to expect before it happens.

What to expect physically

Puberty starts when changes in your child’s brain cause sex hormones to be released. In girls, this is usually around the age of 10 or 11, but can range from 8 to 13 years. In boys, it’s usually around age 11 to 13, but can range from 9 to 14 years.

During this time children can experience; 

  • Oily skin and spots,
  • Oily hair, 
  • An increase in perspiration and body odour,
  • A growth spurt (around 11 cm in girls and 13 cm in boys). Teens continue to grow about 1 to 2 cm a year after this main growth spurt.

What girls will experience:

  • A change in their figure, including widening of the hips,
  • Growth of pubic and underarm hair,
  • The start of periods, which could be irregular at first. Some discomfort, like stomach cramps and headaches, is normal but see your doctor if you have concerns,
  • A clear or whitish vaginal discharge, commonly before periods. See your doctor if your daughter experiences itching, pain or a strong odour.

Boys will experience:

  • Growth of the penis and testicles. Sometimes one testis grows faster than the other, but is not something to worry about,
  • Growth of pubic, underarm and facial hair,
  • The start of erections and ejaculation,
  • Growth of the larynx (voice box) which causes the voice to ‘break’ and eventually deepen. Voice variations are normal and will eventually settle.

What to expect socially and emotionally

  • Puberty and adolescence is a time for children to become more independent. They may take more risks, push boundaries and question the rules as they begin         to separate themselves from their parents and form their own identity.
  • They may struggle with self-esteem issues, peer pressure and the desire to fit in. Supporting them in building healthy relationships and self-esteem is important.
  • Mood changes and variations in energy levels are normal as young people are still learning how to control their emotions with lots of physical and hormonal             changes happening. Swinging between feeling independent and wanting parental support is also common. 
  • They may be sensitive about how they look and the changes that are happening to their body. Personal space and privacy may become very important to                  them.

So, how can you support your child during puberty?

The best time to talk about puberty with your child is before it begins. Use correct terms for body parts so your child learns the right words and feels comfortable using them. By creating an environment where they feel safe to express their thoughts and ask questions, you lay the groundwork for future conversations about more complex topics.

  • Show compassion for the changes they’re experiencing and reassure them the changes are normal and many won’t last forever. Normalise discussions about           what’s happening to them by sharing your own experiences, emphasising that everyone goes through similar changes. If your child is early or late to puberty,             they may feel embarrassed, so offer lots of reassurance and let them know that everyone develops at their own pace and that there’s nothing to worry about. 
  • Puberty is a time when role-modelling body acceptance is extremely important. Your child will compare their body to their friends and may feel worried about           their own development, body shape, size etc. The most helpful thing you can do is simply listen, show them you understand, and emphasise that bodies come in      all shapes and sizes, and that all are completely ‘normal’.
  • Peer pressure is common at this stage of development, so be sure to discuss the qualities of healthy friendships and how to handle peer pressure. Explain the             importance of choosing friends who respect them and their boundaries and values, and encourage them to say no to any activities that make them                            uncomfortable, like smoking, vaping, or underage drinking.
  • Try to stay calm during angry outbursts from your child. Wait for them to cool down before talking about the problem. They will learn how to regulate their                    emotions from how you react when faced with conflict. 
  • Support your child in their self-expression, even if it seems strange to you, such as an extreme haircut or unusual clothing choices. Talk to them about any                   permanent changes they want to make to their body, such as piercings or tattoos, maybe suggesting temporary alternatives that they won’t come to regret in         years to come.
  • Praise them for their efforts, achievements and positive behaviour. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, to boost their self-esteem and motivation.           Stay interested and involved in their life by asking about their day, sharing their hobbies etc, and always let them know you are there if they want to talk. Your             ongoing encouragement and presence will make a big difference in their confidence and well-being. 

Girls during puberty

To help your daughter prepare for her first period, provide her with information and having conversations about periods being nothing to be ashamed of and a normal part of becoming an adult. 

Give her sanitary products for home and school and explain how to use them safely and hygienically (washing hands before using tampons, and not leaving them in for too long). Discuss how cramping and other mood changes may accompany the bleeding and explore ways to relieve pain such as a hot water bottle or medication. Talk to your doctor if your daughter hasn’t started her periods by 16 or 17, or if her periods stop after they’ve started.

Talking to her about challenging female stereotypes can be extremely important. Explore what role models your daughter admires and why, ensuring she understands that females can be strong, do any job they like, and do not have to look pretty or sexualised to be accepted. 

Boys during puberty 

To help your son through puberty and make sure he knows that testes develop unevenly and it’s common for one to be lower than the other. You may also need to reassure him that penis size does not affect sexual functioning and erect penises are usually similar in size, and that ejaculating during sleep (sometimes called a wet dream) and spontaneous erections are both normal. 

Stereotyping can impact a young person’s confidence through these pubescent changes, so challenge masculine stereotypes by discussing with your son how it’s healthy for boys and men to show and express emotions and vulnerability, to be gentle, and to cry.

If your son experiences breast growth or tenderness, let him know that this is likely to settle once his chest widens. And if he feels too small or too slim for his age, reassure him that he will grow in time. 

Remember that you know your child best, and if anything about their development (physical or mental) concerns you, talk to your GP. Read more about talking to children about puberty.