One day as Prakash was changing his clothes, his 5-year-old playing nearby asked, “Papa, why are you so hairy down there?” Prakash calmly changed his clothes and sat down with his son, to explain how the human body is constantly changing and adult humans have more body hair in certain parts. After having his curiosity addressed, the boy went back to playing with his cars.
It is normal for a child to be curious about changes in his/her body or the differences he notices between his body and others. Their curiosity will lead them to ask questions. Why do boys pass urine differently than girls? Or why does mummy wear a bra? These are all normal to ask through different puberty stages of childhood. It is better than the child feels confident in asking these with the parents rather than refer friends or the internet. A lot of what appears on the internet may not be correct.
Puberty is a stage when a child’s body transitions into an adult body that is capable of sexual reproduction. It is a normal and important part of growing up.
In general, girls hit puberty around age 8 and 12 years, while boys reach puberty at age 10 and 14 years.
Girls may experience breast growth, pubic, and underarm hair growth during puberty. They then start with their menstrual cycle around 12 years of age. Boys will experience hair growth in the genitals, armpits, and face during puberty. The penis grows longer and wider, testicles enlarge and their voice deepens.
Avoid using slang words to describe private parts. Using actual words to describe private parts makes it normal. Would you call an arm or a leg by any other name because you feel ashamed to call it an arm or leg? Just the way, girls have a vulva and boys have a penis and testicles. These are parts of the human body just like the eyes, ears, and brain. Nothing to feel ashamed of.
Keep it short with smaller children. As the child grows older, you can elaborate and explain more.
When kids first come up with questions, your expression decides whether they are likely to bank upon you to clear their doubts or they would rather rely on friends and the internet. Be calm and act as normal as you would when your child asks you about the sky being blue or how the earth rotates around the sun.
Your kids must know about the changes they are likely to experience ‘before’ they actually experience it. It will help them be prepared for the event. So start early. Don’t wait for your child to initiate.
Never think your child is too young to talk about it. It is good to discuss how babies are born with your toddler. The sooner you start, the more normal it will seem to them.
Use Books: Books are a good way to initiate the conversation. Some recommendations are:
For Younger Children: It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends by Robie Harris
For Older Children:
What’s Happening to Me? A Guide to Puberty by Peter Mayle
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris
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