Tuesday, February 26, 2013

THE TALK {preparing ourselves and our children for puberty}



It often seems that we are encouraged to reduce puberty education in our minds as having "the talk" with our children.  Why is that? 

Maybe it's a result of the way we received information ourselves- the one week in 6th grade when everyone decided it was time to inform us all at once about our plumbing and then never mention it again. 

Maybe its the countless humorous examples in movies and on sitcoms that model our apparent duty to have one extremely awkward conversation in which we stammer through a vague bird and bee analogy.   

But as our girls are getting older, I am realizing that puberty, and its related impact, is simply a part of the ongoing dialogue we have together.  It comes in bits and pieces and relates to far more than information about physical changes.  It encompasses emotional and spiritual components as well.  

Does it have to be painfully awkward?  Well, let's be honest, it will be somewhat awkward at times.  But just how positive an experience it will be depends on the relationship we have with our children.  

When a normally disengaged parent is all of a sudden diving into topics that are 'below the belt' without ever being concerned about the earlier adolescent changes of greasy hair, pimples and bad breath- then it will undoubtedly be painful and fruitless for both parent and child.  But when a parent has been there; concerned and helping with each new area (interested in that pimple and that flaky scalp) then they have become the obvious choice when looking for a trusted friend to turn to with new changes.  

Parents who have earned the trust to discuss sensitive issues have earned it because they have been dealing with issues that are sensitive to their child all the way along.   


Recently Van emailed asking if we have any books we'd recommend for this "puberty" stage and its related details.  I appreciated that she is asking the question and wanting to be the one to talk these things through with her children.  And it gives me the opportunity to discuss a topic that I have wanted to bring up here.

Years ago it was considered taboo to talk about such things.  In fact, my mom used to relate the true story of my grandmother who was never told about the physical changes she was experiencing.  Because her parents did not bridge this topic at all, she was completely horrified and confused when she experienced menstruation for the first time.  Riding alone on a train, she was convinced that she must be dying.  Too shy to seek help, she suffered silently.  

While we cannot image being so tight lipped on the subject, we often either try to put off discussing these things as long as possible or we follow the model we were given as young people- divorcing the information about physical changes from the emotional and spiritual components that go with it.

Often books designed to be helpful tools to walk children through the changes of puberty disqualify themselves by adding "first kiss" material geared toward elementary ages or scenarios in which they introduce the idea of boys teasing girls about their chest sizes.  No thank you! 


I wouldn't worry about not finding a single resource to walk your young one through.  Instead, I would study up a little and become the resource.  

Books like, A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex, published by Zondervan, is the type of book I would recommend for parental reading.  While parts of it are geared toward scenarios you may not encounter (sex ed in school; the child that has become active before you realize it etc.) it does provides a parental guided approach from a Christian perspective.  It may not be perfect, but it can prove to be helpful as you and your husband hammer out your ideas on various topics and think through some of the things you may want to discuss with your children.  


Maybe even more critical than having every physical answer, is teaching our young people to guard their thought life. 

To relate in a healthy way with the young men around us, we encourage our girls that all the boys in their lives are likely someone else's husband.  While we know that some families encourage girls to think of the boys around them as siblings, we feel that may give girls too strong a feeling of ownership over others.  You might link arms with a sibling or confide deep issues of the heart with a sibling, but if you are wise you wouldn't do that with someone else's husband.  

I love what Stacy Mc Donald shares about helping her daughters in matters of discretion with young men.  She asks, "Do you see me IM'ing or chatting men from church?  Or sitting on other men's laps?  If it's not appropriate for mom, then it's probably not appropriate for you."  

While all the young men in our lives are wonderful examples and special to us, our girl's hearts must remain protected.  We do not want to play around and flirt with matters of the heart.  

Although each family is different, some of the following resources were helpful for our family in walking through specific issues of heart and culture with girls:

Ages Up to 11

Princess and the Kiss  
Pearables (Volume I, II and III and Personal Help for Girls) were good discussion starters.  We may have differed on some points, but they got good conversations started

Ages 12 +

Before You Meet Prince Charming was an important read.  Written to capture a young girls attention, it challenges them to prepare for their best possible marriage by remaining pure.  Sarah Mally encourages young ladies to guard their hearts and provides practical help in doing so. 
Preparing to Be a Help Meet was a helpful read together for the older girl.  Debi Pearl encourages young ladies to cultivate skills and serve the Lord now rather than sitting around waiting for marriage.  She shares practical advice about personalities and lots of varying stories for young ladies which keeps it interresting.  While their focus is often geared toward foreign missionary work, our girls know that we believe in being a missionary wherever they are.  :)
Raising Maidens of Virtue is another helpful read together for the older girl.  Stacy McDonald discusses important topics geared to the older girl- chastity, taming the tongue, loving your own nest and so on with the same straight forward, biblically sound approach we enjoy on her blog.  
Do Hard Things was a helpful 'selected read' (meaning we read certain portions together).  These authors encourage young people to immitate examples from an earlier time when teens did hard things and encourage that this season in their lives is not some mysterious period disconnected from the rest of their lives but the prepatory time that will launch them into the future- for good or for bad.  

Do you have a favorite resource in working through puberty?

Like all teaching and training, let's work through new issues in varying degrees as our children get older and avoid the temptation to make this topic a single talk.





  1. Thanks for broaching this subject Rebecca! I find this a very challenging one. My eldest is now 13 but I still feel that I haven't done all I should and my next oldest is soon approaching the age of puberty. To be honest, I feel very awkward discussing puberty and sex with them. My eldest is also very resistant to talking in any serious, meaningful way about such things. I wish we lived closer...I'd love to chat with you.

    I will have to look at some of these books and seriously pray for wisdom.

  2. Hi Rebecca - I find so much insight with each entry you make. I am curious if any of your readers or you or friends you have recommend any books or thoughts on this topic geared towards parents of boys? Thank you!

  3. Thank you, Sommer. I agree- it isn't easy. It's awkward enough, and we live in a time when it is so unusual to hold a moral standard that people in the limelight make headlines if they chose to retain their virginity until marriage! If your oldest doesn't want to talk about the more serious stuff yet, I might take this time (as you said) to pray and research while going through Before You Meet Prince Charming with her. Guiding the heart and romantic notions is SO critical with girls. Miss you! We need to make a time to connect at CVP soon. :)

    Thank you, Angie. The book "A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex," published by Zondervan does cover both male and female puberty. I'm afraid I have little personal experience in that department. Hoping some of the boy moms will jump in. :)

  4. Thanks Rebecca! I started going through Stacy's book, Raising Maidens of Virtue, with her, but need to get back to that...holidays and illness got us off track. Perhaps I'll read Before you Meet Prince Charming with her too! We've discussed the basics but some of the more intimate things are where we get side lined. I will definitely pray and research further. And yes, I would love for us to meet up at CVP...that would be lovely :-) Miss you too my friend!

  5. Rebecca, I truly appreciate the time you took to answer the question I had regarding puberty. Your response has been so helpful.

    The resource you recommended is one I have not heard of. I look forward to reading it.

    The only resource I can recommend for boys is The Squire and The Scroll.

    The book “Created for Work” by Bob Schultz is good for character development and hard work.

    I discovered your blog a few years ago. Thank you for always offering such encouragement!

    God's continued blessings. -- Van

  6. I have a new resource that I wanted to share! It is an older film by Dave Christiano entitiled, "Pamela's Prayer." Like any film, I would preview it before plugging it in for the kiddos, but the benefits of remaining pure are obvious in the end. Blessings friends! :)