Article at a Glance

  • Create a safe place for your children to ask questions by gradually talking to your children about their bodies as they grow and develop.
  • It is very important that your children know what changes to expect before they start puberty.
  • Children worry a lot about fitting in. Assure them that the changes they are going through are normal and that it is normal for everybody to develop a little differently.

Puberty is a challenging time for both children and parents. It is the start of some very significant changes that nobody is really comfortable talking about. But being able to talk to your children openly is extremely important. If your children aren’t talking to you, chances are they are getting their information from much less reliable sources.

However, creating that kind of open relationship isn’t something that happens overnight. The best time to get started is right now. Even if your children are years or days away from puberty, here are some tips that will help you build a good foundation to work from.

Be Understanding

Adolescence is confusing. Not only are children experiencing major changes in their bodies, but they are also starting to seek for more independence and a separate sense of identity. It is not uncommon for children to feel uncertain and scared.

The change from child to adult isn’t clear-cut and it is very common for children to seem very grown up at times and very immature at others. Even though teens and preteens may seem more mature and want to be more mature, they are still not ready to act as adults. In fact, our brains are not fully developed until we are in our mid-20’s.

It is no wonder we see a lot of confusion and inconsistency in our children’s behavior and emotions. Trying to see through their eyes and remember our own experiences can be tremendously helpful.

Start Early

Gradually start talking to your children about their bodies as they grow and develop. By starting with age-appropriate information when your children are very young, it becomes easier to create a safe and nonjudgmental place for your child to find out information.

When children are younger they are more teachable and more likely to go to their parents for help. This is a good time to teach values, develop trust, and to foster a positive body image.

Starting early also allows you to talk about things as your child is developmentally ready. It is a good idea to not try to cover everything at once. This approach can be overwhelming and it means that your child is getting a lot of information either too early or too late in their development.

No Surprises

It is very important that your children know what changes are coming before they actually occur. Some of the changes can be very disturbing for children if they are not prepared.

Although puberty can start earlier or later, girls sometimes start as early as 8 years old and boys start around 10 to 12 years old.

Understand What is Happening

Before you can explain what is happening, it may help if you know a little bit about it yourself.

Puberty starts when your brain starts to release the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which triggers the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

For both sexes these hormones will trigger some of the following changes:

  • The growth of pubic and underarm hair.
  • A growth spurt. For girls this happens earlier, just a couple of years after the start of puberty. For boys it occurs between the ages of 10 and 16.
  • Increased romantic interest.
  • More body odor and an increase in perspiration.
  • The development of pimples or acne.
  • Some strong shifts in emotions.
  • The deepening of the voice. For males this happens more suddenly and you may notice that sometimes their voices crack.

For girls the LH and FSH hormones will go to the ovaries. There they trigger the production of estrogen and the process by which a female’s eggs mature and are released. You can expect puberty to start sometime between the ages of 8 and 13.

What changes to expect:

  • The appearance of buds under the nipples. These are the precursors to breasts and are usually little firm lumps. They can often be very tender.
  • As the breasts start to develop they will get less firm and larger. Sometimes one will grow faster than the other, but will generally even out as your daughter grows older.
  • Girls will start to develop womanly curves as their bodies build up fat in the breasts, thighs, and hips.
  • The culmination of the process happens between the ages of 9 and 16 with the start of a girl’s first period. Girls who start puberty sooner are more likely to start their periods sooner.

In boys the hormones go to the testes and trigger the production of sperm and testosterone.

What changes to expect:

  • The penis and testicles will get larger.
  • The feet, legs, arms, and hands will grow faster than other parts of the body.
  • The shoulders will broaden.
  • Increased development of muscles and some weight gain.
  • About 50 percent of boys will temporarily develop breast tissue (called gynecomastia), which will usually fade away after about six months.
  • The growth of a facial hair.
  • An increase in erections.
  • Males experience ejaculation when the tubules and testes fill with sperm. This usually happens while sleeping and is called a “wet dream” or nocturnal emission.

Help to Calm Fears

This can be a very awkward time for your child. Children who are early or late bloomers may feel self-conscious. Children want to fit in with everybody else and worry about being “normal.” It is important to remind them that everybody develops differently and that there is nothing wrong with that.

Problems like body odor, menstruation, body hair, and pimples will also bring up new issues. You will need to help your child learn a more amped up hygiene routine. Bathing will need to happen more frequently and improved skin care can help with pimples.

Girls will need to understand how the menstrual cycle works and be showed how to use sanitary napkins or tampons.

Make it Easy to Talk

For children it can be very hard to voice their concerns about puberty. Let your children know that you are there for them any time they have a question and then make sure you follow through on that promise. Keep things open and don’t overact to questions. Always be upfront and answer things honestly. If your child isn’t asking any questions, you will want to broach the subject with them.

Get into the habit of having some one-on-one time together without any other distractions. Put away the electronic devices and spend some time alone together. Many parents say that some of their best conversations with their kids have been when riding in the car or right before bed.

If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest and say that you will need to look it up. It is also a good idea to introduce your children to some reputable websites and books that they can go to for answers. Kids are used to finding answers on the Internet and you don’t want to risk having them find inappropriate sites.

Most importantly, let your child know that puberty is a totally normal process and that there is nothing to be ashamed of or uncomfortable about.

For more information:
Talking to Your Child About Puberty (

Understanding Puberty (

Puberty (

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How to Prepare Your Child for Puberty

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