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How to Talk to Your Tween About Puberty

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How to Talk to Your Tween About Puberty

You knew it would come sooner or later. The time is now. It’s time to have the puberty talk.  When should this happen? Should both of you do it? What do you say? Should “the talk” be different for boys than for girls? If surviving three daughters into their teens means anything (your guess is as good as mine), I am a veritable expert. Here’s what I suggest.

What age is best?

Of course, there is no exact correct answer. It is a good idea to have “the talk” before all those changes actually start, so take the lead of most elementary schools. Fifth grade is when they separate the boys and girls and have the puberty lesson. Age eleven is a good time, if not a little late, to talk to your kids about growing up. Ideally, this is an ongoing conversation that started when he or she was learning to talk and learning the names of body parts. Hopefully, this is just an extension of many conversations you’ve had over the years about your child’s body. If not, it’s definitely the time to open that door (just try not to fall through the floor laughing).

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Mom, Dad or both?

This might depend upon the child’s gender, the comfort level of each parent and the overall family dynamic. Girls don’t want to talk about periods with dad, usually, but some are more at ease with dad, particularly if living with a single dad. Boys don’t really want mom to explain about pubic hair or masturbation (or dad either, for that matter), but it is a conversation you should not leave entirely to school. Some families have found kids are more comfortable talking to a trusted young adult, like a babysitter, au pair or nanny. What’s most important is starting the conversation and letting your kid know you’re there to answer questions (even if you don’t want to).

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What to say?

So you’ve decided he or she is old enough and who is going to do the deed, but what on earth are you supposed to say? When I asked my eleven-year-old son how he thought it best for parents to talk about this topic to kids, his first response was ask them if they want to talk about it. Then he advised, be subtle. (This kid cracks me up!) He’s right, though. Don’t force this conversation down your kid’s throat and keep it light, at their level, and open-ended. The conversation doesn’t need to take hours or be very detailed. In fact, a bunch of little short convos seems ideal to me. Offer to answer questions that might come up, and then be prepared to answer them, honestly. I was relieved when my young teen daughter came to me with her questions about oral sex (about a scene she had read in a book), but I chose my words carefully when explaining, just enough but not too much! My point: be prepared for tough questions!

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Boy talk vs. Girl talk?

Yeah, the content will be similar, but different. Your son should know what goes on for girls, generally speaking, without all the gory details. Your daughter should know boys experience changes in puberty too, but probably don’t need visual aids. No matter the gender, pre-teens, or tweens as they are called these days, need to know Bob Dylan’s wise and true words, “the times they are a’ changin.” Content of each conversation will differ slightly with the overall theme that body changes are normal, adults understand and are available to help or answer questions, and there is light at the end of the tunnel of adolescence (except it’s this sometimes crappy thing called adulthood with jobs, responsibilities, taxes and wishing you were a kid again).

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    Photo from Shutterstock

    You’ll survive it. Remember “the talk” with your own parents? It is okay to feel nervous or weird, or both. After all, you spent years trying to prevent your kids from talking about these “inappropriate” subjects. In the end, be sure to make your child feel like you are available, if a bit uncomfortable. Humor helps. Be sure he or she knows you will give honest answers. Don’t sugarcoat it, but don’t give more information than you think your kid can handle. When you have an older child who has already gone through, or is in the midst of adolescence, you may have another resource. Make sure, though, that your older child doesn’t give false or too much information to your younger one. You may be answering questions sooner than you like or find yourself clarifying some interesting misnomers! Good luck and call your mother with any questions.

    Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via pixabay.com

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    Joan Lowell

    Educator, Writer

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    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

    In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

    Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

    There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

    Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

    Let’s get started, shall we?

    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

    Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

    1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

    When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

    Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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    “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

    2. Teaches the Value of Family

    Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

    According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

    3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

    Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

    “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

    For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

    4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

    How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

    “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

    5. Creates a Safe Environment

    If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

    Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

    6. Reduces Stress

    This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

    According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

    So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

    How to Make Family Time Happen

    Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

    1. Family Dinners

    This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

    Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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    “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

    According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

    As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

    2.  Regular Movie Nights

    This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

    Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

    3. Game Night

    This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

    In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

    So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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    4. Sharing a Hobby

    If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

    Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

    Final Thoughts

    Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

    Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

    The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

    Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

    Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
    [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
    [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
    [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
    [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
    [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
    [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
    [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
    [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
    [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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