As the experts at KidsHealth point out, you know your children best.
For example, you’ll notice when they start telling sexual jokes or when they become concerned with their personal appearance. This is a good time to jump in with questions, such as:
- Are you noticing changes in your body?
- Are you having strange feelings?
- Are you sad sometimes and don't know why?
An annual physical exam is a great time to talk about this. A doctor can tell your pre-adolescent — and you — what to expect in the next few years. An exam can be a catalyst for a good parent-child discussion. The later you wait to broach these talks, the more likely your child will form misconceptions or become apprehensive of physical and emotional changes.
It’s important to establish their body isn’t shameful, especially their private parts, says Eleanor Weekes, supervisor of Therapy Services at Community Partners, a Palm Beach County nonprofit funded by Children’s Services Council. “The earlier you start, the less stigma there will be.”
Eventually, when you notice changes associated with puberty, maintaining open and non-confrontational dialogue is key, she says.
“Let your child know what they are experiencing is part of their developmental process and that everyone goes through it,” she say. “If there are hygiene issues, depending on what it is, you should take that opportunity to teach your child how best to care for their bodies.”
Weekes reminds parents it’s vital to keep an open mind when talking with your children about sexual health and puberty.
“In general, if parents have an open relationship talking with their kids about their bodies when they are young and they keep talking with them, it makes it easier to have these conversations with them as they get older,” she says.
You might want to remind your children that nobody, including close friends and relatives, may touch their private parts, according to HealthyChildren.org. The exceptions are doctors and nurses during exams and parents when trying to find the cause of any pain in the genital area.