For parents and child-free alike, this is the space to discuss all things related to raising children.
To other parents, how did you handle puberty with your kids? To everyone, what did you appreciate about how your parents handled puberty or things you didn’t like? My kid is reaching that age, and I’m wondering what is too much to talk about and what is helpful.
I’m not a parent, but I’ve been involved daily in raising my niece since her mom and dad left the picture in 2015. My mental health nonsense leaves me constantly worried that I’m flubbing everything and ruining her childhood forever, but I’ve been trying my best regardless.
When it comes to puberty, I definitely had similar concerns about how to convey important information without going totally overboard. What ended up helping me was researching the age-appropriate books out there for kids, purchasing a few, and reading through em. That research really clarified my thinking on which topics to cover and in how much detail, and afterwards we talked through the most essential topics together (bodily autonomy/consent, hormonal changes, periods, sex, sexuality and gender, birth control, etc.) in brief snippets over the next few days. After the first snippet I left a couple of the better books with my niece for her to flip through at her own leisure, with the understanding that I could field questions at any time. Overall I think it worked out okay!
This was like a year ago now so there might be newer titles out there, but I preferred “It’s Perfectly Normal” for its straightforward and comprehensive overview for boys and girls, and my niece appreciated American Girl’s “The Care and Keeping of You 2” for its normalization of period care, shaving, acne, and other puberty woes.
Any idea what age that was when you started that process? My oldest is 9 but they just bought a training bra which really set off this alarm in my head about this topic. 9 still seems young, but I’d rather be early than late when having this conversation.
Also, an anecdote about this subject. My spouse and I have tried to remove any shame that we grew up with around this subject. My spouse has given anatomically correct answers about what different parts of the body are so my at-the-time-3 year old was saying the word clitoris pretty clearly. But funnier still is I have done a de-sexed talk about how babies are made with my kids. Told three of my four kids that some people like me have sperm and some people like their mom have eggs and when they mix them together, the mom gets pregnant. One of my kids remarked “wow dad. You must have a lot of sperm.”
I got that comment in my back pocket to laugh about at any time.
I am not a parent, but I have a story about how an adult saved my life by giving me some good advice when I was 12 years old.
One day our teacher was ill, so a substitute took over our class. He was not a teacher, I think he was a social worker or something. He talked to us about the meaning of friendship. That friends can not only say “no, I don’t want to do that” at any time, but that you can and should tell your friends if they are going to do something dangerous or very stupid or mean “don’t do that” and that we should listen to our friends when they say that and check if they might be right. We did not just talk, but did role play about difficult situations so we learned to say no and learned to give good advice and to take good advice.
I learned that day that having friends is not just about having a good time together, but also about taking care of each other, helping each other through childhood and adolescence and adulthood by being there in difficult times and saving us when we make terrible choices. That a lot of accidents and crime could have been prevented if people had friends who were that kind of friend, not just guys you hang out with who clap and encourage you to do things that could end badly. With social media kids today have this kind of “friends” in the hundreds, which makes them even more vulnerable to do stupid challenges and alike.
He also told us that if a friend is about to make a serious mistake, it is part of friendship to call for help and talk to an adult. That there is a difference between snitching and being a real friend, keeping your friends safe and away from injury, drugs, crime etc.
When I was 16, a friend of mine stole his father’s car and invited our group of friends to go for a drive (in Germany you need to be 18 to get a drivers licence). I told him to bring the keys back, that it was a bad idea and that I was not getting in the car. I persuaded one of my friends to stay with me and we ran off to tell a parent.
Later that day we found out they had been in an accident. 6 children died, 4 of them my friends three other people got seriously injured. I could have been one of them if not for that one adult who took the time to talk to us about friendship and encouraged us to say no for the sake of ourselves and our friends. I owe that man my life because before that discussion I wouldn’t have had the strength to go against all my friends and say no, but in the back of my mind I had his voice: “Do the right thing to protect yourself and your friends, even if it means they get angry with you, that’s what true friendship is.”
I wish more children, teenagers and young adults would get this lecture before it is too late. I am 57 years old and all my life I have tried to be that kind of friend, to have people around me I could count on to hold me back when I had a brain fart and was about to do something stupid or bad. We all have such moments from time to time.
As a parent of 3 (Aged 8, 6 and 4), it is definitely a challenge and one that oftentimes I feel not the greatest at; who does though honestly? I try to do the best I can, especially not having the greatest of childhoods myself (a whole lot of trauma). In terms of what I endured, they are actually pretty fortunate because I outright refuse to have them go through even an iota of what I did.
I think as with all things in life, patience goes a long way, so I do what I can, speak with my therapist every two weeks, better myself bit by bit and hopefully it will all work out well and they won’t be too maladjusted when they hit puberty/ adolescence.
Thank you for sharing. I think this is why I try to over-communicate and communicate well. Rather than telling my kids that something they did or are going to do is “bad”, I try to tell them why it did/will hurt someone. And I ask if they would like if someone hurt them in that way. The response is nowhere near 100% what I want (one of my kids will walk through the logic with me and still mostly choose the option that hurts other), but they are more receptive as time goes on.
I think as long as you own your actions and apologize when you feel you’ve done wrong and especially when your kids tell you that you’ve hurt them, you’re on the right path. My oldest has told me that I break promises sometimes. I wasn’t even aware. And when they first told me, I got frustrated because it was something that we didn’t do because we ran out of time or I just was exhausted. But I owned that I communicated poorly and apologized. I’m still not perfect (put that on my tombstone), but I’ve gotten better about keeping commitments to my kids.
Same here. My eldest daughter loves playing Minecraft on her Switch and always wants to play with me. It’s fun when we get connected on our world, but after working all day, I’m often too beat to even try.
She has told me that I break promises too, which does hurt, but it’s made me more pensive with my words. I’ll ponder it before making a decision, which helps avoid that in the future.
We had the more involved conversations I was describing when she was 12. But I’m definitely with you that destigmatizing the subject is super important, so it’s been something we’ve been talking about more generally for a long time. Around 9-10 we had a more basic chat about the kinds of changes to expect from puberty, plus a refresher on different sexualities/genders and the ironclad primacy of bodily autonomy and consent.
After that earlier chat I got her a copy of “Sex Is a Funny Word”, which is fairly light on detail but presented in an approachable comic book style. If I’d known about it at the time I probably would’ve also picked up “It’s So Amazing!”, which I’ve not personally read but is a companion to “It’s Perfectly Normal” for younger readers aged 7-10.
I’m not a parent, but if I were I’d do what my mother did. She always answered my questions and gave me age appropriate books that explained the science behind everything from reproduction and child birth to adolescence, without pulling any punches. This meant by the time my catholic school decided to finally teach us about these things through a joke of a program called “Fully Alive” around the time we were ten, not only did I already have a deep grasp on the concepts, I was setting the teachers straight on the nonsense spouted in the texts used in our school. I’m a firm believer that honesty and information are key when it comes to these subjects and there’s no age that is too young to engage with material designed for a child’s current cognitive developmental level.
My oldest (9) made breakfast this morning- cheesy scrambled eggs. She just did it without me asking and without my help. This is the first time she has made something over the stove. She’s interested in cooking, and I wonder if she’ll want to start making dishes regularly. How old were you when you started cooking without an adult? How old were your kids? What kind of things did you/they make?
I was around 7 when I first started making simple things like toast and porridge. Moved on to pasta and similar at 10-11. Moved from home when I was 16, and had to learn to cook then, but I probably never cooked a fully fledged meal (with side dishes, vegetables and all) until I was at least 20.
My own kids are 1, 5 and 7, and the two oldest help out in the kitchen for now, usually with pastries and simpler tasks like cutting vegetables. Whenever they express an interest in cooking, we try to accomodate, but we’re not pushing them to learn. The only thing we expect is that they can make their own sandwiches for school lunch. Everything else is just a bonus.
An aunt gave me a cookery book for children. I think I was 8. It started with stuff you don’t need to cook at all, like the great idea of putting a banana in your cereal, how to make great sandwiches or a milkshake, salad, fruit salad, how to cut an apple so it looks like a mouse. Then it went on to baking, asking the children to let the parents put things in the oven and take them out, so again most of the things I did didn’t involve heat. Then it was on to pancakes, mashed potatoes, soup, hot dogs and pasta with sauce. It had comics in it and explained food, like why there are different kinds of pasta and how they’re named, or why a banana turns brown so quickly and not with lemon on it. It was partly chemistry and partly physics (water boils faster if you put the lid on the pot, why does boiling milk ‘get bigger’). I loved that thing, but when I was older I had to give it to my cousin who was 3 years younger than me and she destroyed it instead of using it Since I am ancient, the book is too and I can’t find it anywhere anymore, but I guess there are a lot of these books available now. Having to read and understand what you read is a plus too for kids who might not love reading so much, reciepts are short and useful and the food a lecker reward.