The doctor is in | Puberty

When should you start talking about puberty? When does that happen these days? (I’ve heard it happens at like age 10?)

Talking about puberty has been an important issue for parents for ages. In an ideal situation, children should feel comfortable talking about their bodies with their parents starting at a young age. At younger ages, children will often notice differences between their bodies and other family members’ bodies. These are key moments to have some basic discussions regarding the topic. 

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Once the changes of puberty begin, your child may not come to you regarding this sensitive topic.  Generally speaking, children should know the basics of the emotional and physical changes that occur with puberty starting around age 8. 

Don’t wait for your child to come to you with questions about their changing body — that day may never come, especially if your child doesn’t know it’s OK to talk to you about this sensitive topic. As a general rule, most girls get their first period when they’re 12 or 13 years old, which is about 2 or 2½ years after they begin puberty. Some get their periods as early as age 9, while others get it as late as age 16. Boys generally begin going through puberty a little later than girls, usually around age 10 or 11. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older. 

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In regards to sex education at school, often the lessons are segregated.  Girls hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the boys hear about erections and changing voices. It’s important that girls learn about the changes boys go through and boys learn about those affecting girls, so check with teachers about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It’s a good idea to review the lessons with your child since kids often still have questions about certain topics. 

— Dr. Crystal Cole, Adolescent Medicine, Akron Children’s Hospital

Photo: Dr. Crystal Cole, used with permission from Akron Children’s Hospital