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5 Tips for Talking With Your Kids About Puberty

Katie Malinski

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Parents sometimes think that they can wait for the “Big Talk” about puberty and sex until their children are 12 or older. Experts say that’s not the healthy choice.  Children learn the information better, and ultimately make healthier choices when their parents start early talking about these topics, and do so many, many times.  Your best goal is to create the kind of relationship with your child where you can talk about this just as you can talk about anything.  So look for ways to have lots of little conversations about puberty—and use these tips to help make the most of your conversations.


  1. Make sure you are relatively up to date on the facts. Did you know the average age for girls to start the pubertal process is 10.5?  Boys, on average, start at 11.5. The first changes happen in the brain (hormones,) but do you know the first physical signs? There are many good resources for information, here is one online source:
  2. Remind yourself that puberty is normal, natural, and good.  Try very hard to convey that attitude to your child while talking about this topic.  No shame, no grossness, no embarrassment—it’s a natural part of life that everyone goes through.
  3. Practice saying some of these sticky things ahead of time.  Stand alone in front of the mirror and say things like “penis, vulva, menstrual fluid, blood, breasts, ejaculation.”  If it makes you uncomfortable just to read those words, trust me it will be much harder to say them to your child—but you really need to be able to! Practice until you can do so fairly naturally.
  4. Purchase a book for your child to keep in their room, so that they can access the information privately whenever they want to.  Here is a book I like a lot, for both boys and girls:
  5. Look for talkable/teachable moments.  Sometimes life hands you a golden invitation to talk—take advantage!  Perhaps a scene in a TV show has sexual content—press pause or ask a question during the commercial.  Start a conversation about what you both just saw.  Or, perhaps another kid during carpool says something that makes your ears perk up.  Take advantage of your great opportunity to listen and collect data, and then circle back later to follow up with your child privately.

But most importantly, remember that the most important thing is to focus on the parent-child relationship.  Make talking about bodies, puberty, and sex just one more healthy part of your nurturing, connected, consistent, and communicative relationship.

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Katie Malinski

Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at