Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999.

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust is responsible for the writing, publishing and updating of the content on this page.

Talking To Your Child About Growing Up & Puberty

  • Date published:

  • Author: ssutton

Everyone goes through puberty. It is part of growing up. Many changes happen to children's bodies and emotionally. It is really important that children understand about the changes that will happen before they start happening. Children prefer to learn about these changes from an adult who they trust and this is usually their parent or carer. It is important that children learn to identify ways of managing the changes, staying safe and keeping healthy. School Nurses can support parents to talk to their child about growing up. To find out more read on....

Talking to your child about growing up and puberty

Most children begin to show signs of puberty between 9 and 13. They become conscious of the differences between their bodies and those of their friends. They may become anxious about what is normal. At this age they’re likely to want more information on: puberty and how their body is changing. It is important that you can have open and honest conversations about these changes. If children know what to expect then this can reduce their worries and anxieties about any changes and help them to feel more confident and improve their self esteem.

What changes happen and why?

The changes that happen during puberty are triggered by rapid changes in hormone levels. Hormones are chemical messengers that travel to different parts of the body. The changes are both physical and emotional. The hormones differ in boys and girls.

  • Testosterone is produced by the testes and controls the development of male secondary sexual characteristics
  • Oestrogen is produced by the ovaries and controls the development of female secondary sexual characteristic

Puberty happens at the same time that your child is preparing to move to secondary school or made that transition. So, children experience social changes alongside the physical and emotional changes. Your child will meet new friends, have a change in peer groups and take on more responsibility for things like their school work, getting to and from school.

Changes in boys

Puberty in boys usually starts later than in girls. Boys often start to experience changes around the ages of 12- 13 years old. However, everyone is different and changes might start earlier or later. The changes that happen in boys are:

  • Their voice gets deeper – some people might refer to this as your voice “breaking”.
  • They become taller, bigger and more muscular.
  • Pubic hair will start to grow around the penis and testicles (balls).
  • The penis and testicles will grow larger.
  • Hair will grow on their face and under your arms
  • They will start to have wet dreams
  • Sexual thoughts and feelings
  • Skin might start to develop spots
  • Start to sweat more
  • Their mood might change and they might feel more irritable and moody than usual

Changes in girls

Puberty in girls usually starts earlier than boys. Girls can start changes as early as 8 years old or as late as 14 years old. This is quite normal and girls should try not worry if their friends start to experience changes sooner than they do. The changes that happen in girls are:

  • Breasts and hips will get bigger
  • They grow taller
  • Pubic hair will start to grow in genital area
  • Periods start
  • Sexual thoughts and feelings
  • Skin might start to develop spots
  • Start to sweat more
  • The hair on the legs might get darker and some girls grow hair on their upper lip too
  • Their mood might change and they might feel more irritable and moody than usual

Relationship and Sex Education in Schools

Schools provide ‘relationship and sex’ education (RSE) and this usually includes lessons about puberty in year 5 and 6. Schools follow a curriculum set out by the Government to ensure that lessons are of high quality, appropriate and safe. School Nurses often help schools to deliver these lessons by providing training for teachers or going into the classroom and teaching the pupils. In Walsall we have an excellent website called EasySRE which provides schools with lots of help and resources to develop there RSE lessons.

Top tips for talking to your child

All of these changes exciting, but can also be confusing and uncomfortable for child and parent alike. The more that you understand about the changes then more you can help and support your child through these changes. Here are some top tips:

  • Find a time and place where it is comfortable and private to talk to your child
  • Take an informal and relaxed approach.
  • Talk to them before these changes start to happen so that they are prepared
  • Try using books or websites to guide conversations
  • Ask your child what lessons that they have had in school about growing up
  • Consider using every day situations to bring up the topic e.g. a TV advert for sanitary wear, a programme on the TV that is showing children changing, a pregnancy in the family to explore changes.
  • Always let your child know that they can ask you questions at any time.

Our Parent/Carer Workshops

We offer workshops for parents and carers which explain about the changes that happen during puberty and provide some helpful tips about how to talk to your child and to support them during these changes. You can book onto one of our workshops by contacting our Single point of access on 01922 423349. Or if you prefer then you can watch one of our team present the workshop online

Useful Resources

Puberty for girls – Childline

Puberty for boys – Childline

Surviving Adolescents: A guide for parents and carers – Royal College of Psychiatrist