When is the right time to talk puberty with your kids?

When is the right time to talk puberty with your kids?

It sneaks up. It can start earlier than planned. It prompts questions.

Puberty.

Recent statistics show that both boys and girls are beginning puberty at earlier ages than past generations. It’s possible for boys to begin as early as nine years old and girls at seven years old. So how should parents respond to the changes they see in their children’s changing bodies?

Dr. Adam Ebreo, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill., says it’s a great idea for parents to talk to their child about puberty before all the body changes begin.

“Girls tend to start puberty between ages 8-12 and boys 9-13 years old,” he says. “So it is a good idea to talk to your child at an earlier age of 6-7 years of age, especially because studies have shown puberty can happen at very early ages.”

He says it’s important to let them know the changes they are experiencing are normal and healthy.

“At an early age we are always telling our children that they are growing up and getting bigger…which is easy,” he says. “As they start to go to school, parents should initiate the puberty talk so kids don’t get surprised when their classmates bring up the subject.”

Stages of puberty
Parents can keep an eye out for signs, Ebreo says.

Some of the common changes with boys and girls are the beginning of body hair in the armpits and the genital area,” he says. “Also, children may begin to have body odor and acne. With girls, the hips may widen and the chest may enlarge, while with boys, the shoulders may broaden up and the voice may deepen.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following are common stages of puberty for boys versus girls:

Stage 1:
Boys and girls – pre-pubertal and no sexual development

Stage 2:
Boys – testes enlarge, body odor

Girls – breast budding, first pubic hair, body odor, height spurt

Stage 3:
Boys – penis enlarges, pubic hair grows, ejaculation (wet dreams)

Girls – breasts enlarge, pubic hair darkens, vaginal discharge

Stage 4:
Boys – height increase, continued enlargement of testes and penis, pubic hair curlier

Girls – onset of menstruation, nipple is distinct from areola

“Puberty is just a natural process of growing up,” Ebreo says. “So parents should feel confident and comfortable talking to their kids about their developing bodies.”

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.