Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Educating K About Puberty

The pediatrician said in August that K would hit puberty "within the year." She's 10. She has mild crushes from time to time, but she thinks even holding a boy's hand is icky, so now's a good time to explain what's going to happen. I myself didn't hit puberty until age 14. Fortunately, I used to work for Planned Parenthood, where I often counseled girls who were sexually active way younger than I was.

Unlike my child self, K has long been curious about the bodies of grown-up women and has looked forward to having one. For years, whenever K and I have changed clothes in the same room, she has wanted to try on my bra or use my body powder. I never did that with my mother. I know there are more girls like her than like me, but I still find this attitude baffling. I mean, why would anybody look forward to wearing breasts and bleeding once a month? Me, I was happy to remain in a kid's body for as long as possible. 

Anyway, I spent about fifteen minutes with K one recent afternoon explaining what was going to happen to her body and why. As part of K and M's education about adoption, we have taught both kids what a uterus is for and how a baby gets in there, so I didn't go into those topics much. With K, I mostly explained menstruation, secondary sexual growth, and--so often left out--the effects of hormonal changes on emotions. She found all of it "embarrassing" (her word) to discuss.

Part of our dialogue went like this:

Me: "Right now, you think boys are disgusting, right? The thing is, as your body gets ready to make babies, the hormones telling your body to change are also going to tell your brain to think differently about boys. Part of you is going to want to make babies."

K: "But I can't take care of a baby!"

Me: "Exactly! So you'll have to listen to the part that wants to make babies and the part that knows you can't take care of one, and you'll have to make choices. Like when you want ice cream but you know you're not hungry."

K: (grins and nods)

I hadn't planned to get into birth control, but she asked whether it was possible to "not have a baby if you don't want to." I told her that the best way was not to make them, but that we'd talk about other ways when she got a little older. (Peter and I haven't discussed what tack to take with the kids about birth control, but I imagine it will be "abstinence, but here's information just in case.")

We bought her the young-kids' puberty book Ready, Set, Grow! by Lynda Maderas. We bought M the companion book for young boys, On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow! We left them on the living room coffee table, where they were immediately found. K looked at some illustrations, said,"That is so wrong!" and hustled the book down to her room. M read parts of his and put it back on the table.

I made sure to tell K that I used to teach people about reproduction, so I don't feel embarrassed answering questions or helping with choices. I also reminded her that Peter, being a doctor, knows all about it and doesn't feel embarrassed either. 

The other day, K yelled from the back of the car, "Hey, Mom! Guess what? I have hair under my arms!"

Despite all my preparation, I nearly drove into a tree. 

1 comment:

ccinnkeeper said...

OMG, I would have had trouble staying on the road, too.

There is a pretty awesome website written for teens with real, non-judgemental information about sex. For now it could be a useful tool for you to give you insight into what sexual questions teens are asking these days, and eventually you might find it useful for the kids to look at themselves. The URL is http://www.scarleteen.com/