Navigating the tumultuous waters of puberty with your child can be a daunting task, but fear not — you’ve stumbled upon the puberty survival guide for parents. As your young one embarks on this transformative journey toward adulthood, it’s crucial to be armed with knowledge and support to ensure a smooth transition. In this guide, we’ll explore essential aspects of puberty, from terminology to menstrual care and recognizing what’s normal and what’s not. So, let’s embark on this enlightening journey together and equip ourselves to guide our children through this pivotal phase.
Many adults cannot identify and do not use the correct names for anatomical structures located on and within a pelvis- yep, we’re talking vulva, vagina, penis, scrotum. Discussing and using correct terminology from infancy forward sets a common language. Calling something a hoo-ha, cookie, or wee-wee is like calling your wrist ‘the wiggle bit’ or your foot “the stepper.” It sounds silly and doesn’t help explain what you’re talking about. Proper terminology helps decrease the risk of sexual assault of minors, decrease shame and stigma around certain body parts and processes, and will help to identify dysfunction or injury faster when asked, “what hurts?”. While you’re at it, read about the menstrual cycle (parents of boys and girls), sexual health, bone health, nutrition, and sleep cycles for adolescents — hint hint, those of us reading this will probably find similar information helpful as we age (aka hello peri-menopause!).
Seek out all options for menstrual care
Most tweens (please note the average age of puberty onset is between 9 and 12, some studies are noting earlier ages in the last 5 years) will start with a pad as that can be the most comfortable. Other options such as period underwear (can be purchased at local stores or online) can be a more eco friendly as well as comfortable option.
Use of a cup, disc, or tampon are also great options when educated and shown how to fit and use them — especially when many activities involve swimming, being in and around water here in Florida.
Know what is normal and what is not normal
Mild cramping, discomfort, fatigue and general achiness are common during the menstrual cycle. Growing pains at joints and long bones are also common during growth spurts. Excessive pain, days missed from school, intense aches that seem to last without relief of over the counter medications, heating pads or TENS units (a TENS unit is a electronic device that sends currents to nerves to block or change its pain response) warrant a call and trip to your medical provider. Providing foods that are comforting but also nutritious can help their bodies regenerate and heal effectively as they go through major changes.
Call on professionals
Reach out to your family physician, pediatrician, or adolescent gynecologist to see if they have any resources or pieces of educational information for your child and yourself. Especially reach out to a medical professional if any pains, aches, or bleeding seem abnormal, cause your child to miss school routinely, or render them incapable of normal tasks around the house. This might be an indication that further medical assessment is needed to rule out what other therapies and strategies might help them best. (This piece of advice is definitely worth saying twice!).
If you are an adult reading this, you have experienced puberty. You were smelly, your hair was growing in all kinds of places rapidly, your clothes that fit one day do not fit anymore. Change is scary. It’s scary for us adults, but scarier when our adults that we look up to seem unsure or nervous for us. Go back to step one and educate yourself or find someone that can best educate your child (and you!) during this time of their life. If you’re finding this time in their life is triggering about a time in your past, go talk to someone about it, specifically a licensed professional — that can make a world of difference for you and your child.
For those about to start their menses (bleeding), go shop together, have open discussions, and prepare a small “ready” bag with an extra change of underwear, an absorbent pad, extra shorts/leggings, and a little note saying some helpful words of affirmation, encouragement, and love. That way if their period starts at school they’ll have had a conversation with you, know to find a teacher they trust, or a school nurse, to help them until a parent is notified.
As a parent, your most powerful tools are understanding and support. Educate yourself, use correct terminology, and foster open communication with your child. Explore the options for menstrual care, and most importantly, be attuned to what’s normal and when it’s time to seek professional help. Patience, preparation, and love will be your guiding stars on this adventure. By following these steps, you can help your child navigate puberty with confidence, knowledge, and the assurance that they have a caring and informed guide by their side.