Story by: Norton Children’s on June 5, 2020
Growing up in today’s world presents different challenges than even a couple of decades ago.
However, some things don’t change: It is important for parents and guardians to start conversations about puberty and sexual health early. Discussions should be relaxed and informal; any awkwardness will subside if you are confident and straightforward, and if you keep the lines of communication open. Opening the conversation also will make it easier for your child to come to you later on when more questions arise. How do you talk to your child about sexual health?
Parents can start talking about puberty with their daughters by age 7 or 8. Continue looking for opportunities to discuss changes that happen as a girl grows into a young woman. For example: Talk about when another family member is growing taller or a sister is developing breasts. This can help the conversation feel “normal.”
“The Care and Keeping of You,” a book divided into two age-appropriate volumes for reading and discussion, and “What’s the Big Secret?” for younger children are useful resources.
The conversation about ever-changing bodies should be ongoing and reflect every stage of life, so use your best judgment about being appropriate. Focus on these topics of discussion:
The first appointment with a gynecologist is a time for preventive care and discussion, privately and with parents. Taking your daughter to the first gynecological visit may be nerve-wracking for both of you. Be sure to give your daughter privacy, but be there with her to ask the doctor questions if she is too nervous to ask herself.
Schedule an appointment with a pediatric gynecologist.
With boys, ages 10 to 12 are a good time to begin the puberty and sexual health conversation .
While boys are still immature at those ages, starting the conversation can help children understand the changes they will undergo during the puberty. Boys should also have yearly genital exams and parents can stay up-to-date with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Some topics for discussion:
Raise any uncomfortable topics with the child’s primary care provider or a pediatric urologist.