‘Puberty’- it’s one of the few words that can strike almost as much fear into the hearts of parents as it does for pre-teens.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of lovely, polite, open kids transmogrifying over night into people it’s impossible to communicate with at all.
Of course, the reality is that while a teenager’s body is changing on the outside, a lot is happening on the inside too. Puberty can be a confusing time full of questions without obvious answers, and our job as parents is to be there to answer those question as best we can.
Yet, even if we’re armed with most of the facts, knowing how to discuss them with our children can still be difficult. And research by Boots backs that up, with 68% of parents reporting that they find it difficult to approach topics around puberty with their teens, and a quarter ending up avoiding the talk completely.
My eldest isn’t quite a tween yet, so I have a year or two before the puberty conversations really start, but I’m all for preparing in advance by having open, informal conversations whenever they’re needed, so that approaching me with questions is the norm, rather than a big deal. To me, that feels like half the battle won already.
That’s why I was pleased to take part in the Boots #TeenTalk campaign, which aims to support parents as they help to guide their teen through their puberty.
A round table
To learn more about the campaign, I took part in a round table discussion with Gabby Logan, Boots, P&G and a panel of 10 parenting bloggers.
The panel was informal and Gabby was a great host: funny, honest, open, and kept the conversation flowing – a great example of how you’d want a chat to go with your tweens!
The first thing we discussed was our own experiences with our parents when we were teenagers, and unsurprisingly our experiences varied widely. Then we moved on to talking about the challenges we faced during that time, and the ones we recognise developing in own children.
Some participants in the round table remembered that their parents could hardly bear to speak about it and remember a real sense of awkwardness, while some recall being handed an informative book on puberty, told to read it and come back if they had any questions.
Others in the group had experiences that were closer to my own. I only remember having one awkward-ish talk with my mum relating to puberty, which centred around my horror at having to use sanitary towels for the first time. I remember protesting that they were the size of a brick! But I also remember my mum being really funny and lovely about it, and sharing how much bigger they were in the ‘olden days’, requiring a belt to hold them in place! We ended up laughing together, so those types of chats do stick out in my mind, but for the right reasons. I don’t cringe when I think about them.
All the other, smaller questions I had along the way – I just asked. I always saw (and still see) my mother as someone I could easily approach at any time. In that natural, open environment, asking my mum questions about puberty didn’t happen all at once, so while some conversations might have been fleetingly embarrassing, I barely remember them. It’s like trying to remember asking her for a new coat – mundane and therefore forgettable. I think that’s pretty great!
After talking about what we did and didn’t like in our parent’s approach and our own thoughts, we moved on to discussing how we’ve dealt with our own children who are coming up to – or going through – puberty.
By the end it was nice to see that we were pretty unanimous with what we believe to be the best overarching approach to talking to your teens.
Here are the big five take away points:
- Children are likely to have lots of questions, but they’re also likely to feel awkward or embarrassed, so trying to fit it all into one big conversation is unlikely to cover everything.
- Keep a really open, continuous dialogue with your children. That doesn’t mean every day has to involve a big talk, but taking the effort to really get a grasp on how they’re doing day to day and week to week is important.
- Be willing to talk, but don’t push. As long as they see that you’re available and willing to have a conversation, your kids should come to you when the need to.
- Remember everyone is different, and that what you remember bothering you during puberty – or how you dealt with it – might not be the same as your children’s. For instance, Gabby shared that her children have anxieties about the changes they’re facing which are different from her own at that age. She also shared that Lois is very in tune with her own body and deals with changes in her mood through running.
- Remember that loads of parents are going to be experiencing the same sense of nervousness around having the #TeenTalk as you, so there’s plenty of support out there from other parents if you need it.
I’m really glad I attended the discussion, and it’s great to see brands becoming more open to discussing puberty postively and honestly, especially with 1 in 5 parents unsure how to start the puberty conversation.
I’ve certainly got a better idea on how I’m going to be approaching it with my own children.
Get help with #TeenTalk from Boots
To help arm teens and their parents with key information on navigating puberty, Boots will be giving away a free #TeenTalk guide if you buy any Venus, Always or Tampax products between 10th May and 6th June.
Focussing mainly on female puberty, the guide includes topics on things like the ‘teenage brain’ and teen behaviours, which will give kids and parents alike an idea of what to expect when they approach ‘the chat’.
It also includes some practical tips on grooming, personal care and body changes, which I think is great, as while it’s a relatively small part of the whole process it often gets overlooks which can lead to anxiety.
Some of these products will also be on promotion during this time, so parents can also pick up a free gift for their teen daughters.
This is a commissioned post for Boots.