Imagine having “The Talk” with hundreds of fifth graders every year.
While you may be breaking out in a rash at this idea, I actually take great joy in my role providing puberty education to hundreds of fifth graders every year in my role as Team Leader for the ARC (Adolescent Resource Center) program at Children & Families First. In addition to talking to kids about puberty, I also help parents learn how to be more comfortable with these conversations themselves.
I’m the parent of a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old, and even though I’ve talked about puberty to thousands of students, I still had challenges when talking to my own kids. While many kids have lessons about puberty in school, it's also important that you talk with your kids about puberty and sexuality at home. This sends a clear message that your children can come to you with whatever thoughts and questions they may have – we call this being an “Ask-able Parent.” This open communication can help strengthen your relationship.
One of our keys jobs as parents is to prepare our children for their future. What I notice is that when it comes to puberty, sometimes parents approach it with trepidation. Like, “Oh no, we have to have ‘the Talk’.” You have the power to shape your child’s perception of this important stage of life.
Parents are the first and most important educators of their children. You’ve always been your child’s safe harbor, as they explore and have new experiences, and this continues through puberty. Kids are curious and notice changes in themselves and people around them. You can talk about change in a positive way and help your child process new information.
Think of teaching your child about puberty not as “the Talk,” but as conversations that happen over time.
Sometimes kids get embarrassed, and parents do, as well. You can model how to sit with discomfort, and ways to take care of your feelings, so that your kids can too.
This is an opportunity to share your values and experiences about growing up. Storytelling is a deeply personal way to share things that you learned, through talking about what you remember, in your growing up story.
We can foster respect and empathy. Providing your child with accurate information, using correct terms for body parts, and answering questions honestly all convey respect. Talking about your own body in a kind way models positive body image.
People may worry that they don’t have all the answers. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do want to be present.
Philinda Mindler is a mom, sexuality educator, and clinical social worker. She is the Team Leader for the ARC (Adolescent Resource Center) program at Children & Families First. This is her 17th school year working with students. ARC is offering a summer Virtual Puberty series for rising fifth, sixth and seventh graders. Parents can enroll their child in this program directly. Here is more information on the Virtual Summer Series.