Parents often face a certain amount of anxiety about their children's transition from childhood to adolescence. During this period, children go through many changes, both in body and mind. Familiprix, in collaboration with Vie de Parents, has put together some survival tools because life as a parent is also about accompanying your child through this crucial transition!
When does puberty start?
Puberty is a transitional phase between childhood and adulthood during which physical and psychological changes occur. On average, it lasts for 3 to 5 years, mainly between the ages of 10 and 14. It often occurs earlier in girls than in boys. Your child may be worried about the changes puberty brings. Be open to listening to their concerns and mention that these changes occur at a different pace for everyone.
What are the apparent changes during puberty?
The sex hormones produced during puberty cause major changes in reproductive functions, but also in the whole body.
To prepare your daughter for the upcoming changes, you can discuss milestones with her. For example, you can talk about breast development, hair growth (legs, armpits and pubic hair), sweating, pimples (acne), vaginal discharge, and of course, the inevitable period!
To ensure that your son is prepared for the changes ahead, you can discuss voice changes (deeper voice), hair growth (face, legs, chest, armpits, pubic area), testicular growth, penile growth, sweating, pimples (acne), more frequent erections and first ejaculations.
What are the most important sexuality-related issues to discuss with your child?
There are several important topics to address that parents are concerned about when it comes to their young people's sexual awareness, including:
In a sexual relationship, consent represents a voluntary and informed agreement by each of the participating parties. Consent must be expressed through words and actions that are supportive, both before and during the activity. If consent is not obtained from either party at any time, the act is considered sexual assault.
Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI)
Some STBBIs, unlike others, go unnoticed, meaning they cause few or no symptoms. Since they are transmitted through sexual relations and oral sex, it is important to protect yourself by using a condom, a female condom or a dental dam (a latex sheet that creates a barrier between the mouth and genitals).
Hygiene is always important; however, it becomes even more so during adolescence. It is essential to develop good habits when it comes to personal hygiene.
It may be appropriate to suggest (tactfully, of course) that they:
- Take a bath or shower every day and wipe off any moisture from their private parts
- Use deodorant or antiperspirant
- Start a facial care routine to cleanse and moisturize the skin
- Change clothes every day
- Wear cotton underwear, especially for girls, as it retains less moisture
- (For girls) Consider wearing a bra
- (For girls) During menstruation, use pantiliners, sanitary napkins or tampons, changing them every 4 to 6 hours
Sexual orientation and gender identity
Sexual orientation raises many questions during adolescence. It is defined by the sexual or romantic attraction felt towards others. This attraction can be directed towards the same or opposite sex. Different sexual orientations exist, such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality and others. This may be a new reality, but you should know there is no standard for sexual orientation.
On the other hand, the notion of gender identity can also become more critical during adolescence. Your teen may feel more feminine, more masculine, both, or neither. All of these are valid.
If you feel helpless or unsure of what to do, take the opportunity to learn more about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Masturbation is often one of the first sexual experiences for adolescents as they learn about their bodies. It consists of touching the genitals and other parts of the body. It is a regular activity that varies in frequency depending on the individual.
To learn more, check out our ADO #nofilter guide.
How do you, as a parent, react to all this upheaval?
Although this is not always an easy part of the process, there are a few tips you can use to help you understand your child's needs.
First, try to see the positive side of this time (yes, there is one!). Tell your child that you are proud of how far they have come and who they are becoming! It will make them feel reassured and confident!
Also, respect your child's need for independence. As they grow up, they need their own space. So it may be an excellent time to consider moving your little brother or sister to a different room so your teenager can have their privacy!
Try to be understanding of the different emotions that are going on in a single minute! Teenagers are often very emotional!
How to talk to your child about puberty?
Puberty is a tricky subject to talk about. Sometimes fear or embarrassment can get in the way! However, your role as a companion will help your child get through this period as well as possible.
You can, for example, ask your child what they already know, talk with them using the right words (sometimes discomfort makes for great memories!), discuss openly about your own experiences, and, most importantly, listen.
This reality seems frightening initially, but the parent's support remains essential for a transition oriented towards sharing and communication.
You are a good parent. Never doubt it!