How to Talk about Puberty with Your Teens

This article is sponsored by UnityPoint Health — Des Moines.

Puberty TeensTalking about puberty is hard for many people, but it can seem especially daunting for parents of teen and pre-teen children.

When should you have “the talk”? What do you say? How do you know when your child is starting to go through puberty? How are boys and girls different? Here are some signs to look for and tips on how to talk about this sensitive topic with your children.

Body Changes

Most children will begin to experience body changes due to puberty around ages 10 – 13. Some of those changes are similar for both genders and some are different:

Girls Boys
Breast growth, often called breast buds Growth of the testicles and penis
Growth spurt in height Growth spurt in height, often preceded by weight gain
Hair growth, underarms, and pubic area Increased sweating, acne, and body odor 
Menstruation/periods Hair growth, underarms, and pubic area
Body shape changes, such as wider hips and thighs Nocturnal (nighttime) erections and emissions, often called wet dreams
Body odor and acne Voice changes
Lots of emotions Increased muscle mass
  Lots of emotions

Generally, breast growth is a good indication that a girl will begin menstruation, commonly called her period, in about two to three years. This is a great time to start the conversation with your daughter about the changes she is experiencing and what she can expect down the road.

For boys, nocturnal emissions are often embarrassing and unexpected. It’s best to talk about this body change before it happens so they know it’s possible and completely normal.


“The best thing we can do as parents and caregivers,” says LuAnn Woolley, a nurse Luann Wooleypractitioner at Blank Children’s Adolescent Medicine, “is to not let this be a surprise. Educate your children. Normalize these body changes.”

It’s common for children to have increased anxiety around puberty and body changes because it feels like the unknown. Normalize having conversations about puberty with both your boys and your girls. To help combat that anxiety or fear, help your child take ownership and responsibility during this time. If they are on the more quiet or private side, let them know it’s alright to keep things private but encourage them to let you know if they have questions or concerns about a change they are experiencing.

For boys, teach them about the importance of regular skin care, like daily showers and washing their face to help fight acne. If they don’t want to tell you about nocturnal emissions, teach them how to change their own sheets and use the washing machine.

For girls, give them ownership of their menstruation by helping them track their periods on an app. Talk about the emotions that many girls experience and how hormones affect our minds and body. Encourage her to journal or track those emotions if it’s helpful.

Puberty is a normal experience, and the experts at Blank Children’s Hospital are here to help you navigate this time with your children. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s puberty journey, be sure to ask their pediatrician or family practice provider. If you are in need of a primary care provider for your pre-teen or teen, contact Blank Children’s Pediatrics or Blank Children’s Adolescent Medicine.

Connect with UnityPoint Health — Des Moines


This post is part of a series of sponsored posts by UnityPoint Health — Des Moines.

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