It seems that kids are exposed to so much information about everything and at an earlier age — more information than what their parents grew up with. As they approach puberty, they may be already inundated with advanced ideas about sex and relationships but it’s your job as a parent to talk about these issues because not all of a child’s information comes from reliable sources.

Don’t wait until your child comes to you with questions because ideally, parents would want to have already started talking to their kids about the changes in their bodies before it happens. It’s important to answer any questions about puberty honestly and openly because by the time kids are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That seems young but some girls are wearing training bras by then and some boys’ voices have begun to change.

Talking about menstruation with your daughter before they actually get their periods is important — if they are unaware of what’s happening, girls can be frightened by the sight and location of the blood. Most girls get their first period when they’re 12 or 13 years old, which is about 2 years after they begin puberty but some get their periods as early as age 9 while others get it as late as age 16.

Boys begin going through puberty a little later than girls, usually around age 10 or 11 but they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older. Many kids receive some sex education at school and often, this is where girls hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the boys hear about erections and changing voices. It’s important that girls learn about the changes boys go through and boys learn about those affecting girls so there’s no additional confusion.

When talking to kids about puberty, it’s important to be reassuring — puberty brings about so many changes that it’s easy for kids to feel insecure and alone. Kids can also feel insecure about their appearance during this time but it can help them to know that everyone goes through these changes, many of them awkward. They also should know that the timing of these changes can vary greatly — acne, mood changes, growth spurts and hormonal changes — it’s all part of growing up and everyone goes through it but not in the same way or at the same pace.

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