The preteen years are confusing enough, especially because of the raging hormones due to the onset of puberty. The last thing you want is for your tweenager to be caught off guard by a period and not know why she is bleeding. It is important to give your tween accurate information.
Puberty happens according to its own timeline, not yours, so you will have to deal with it when it comes. It is different for boys and girls, so I will talk about them separately. However, both sexes will have to adjust to fluctuating levels of hormones, which tend to create mood swings. In addition, these hormonal swings will affect sleep patterns (circadian rhythms), and the irregular sleep will intensify moodiness. Add to the mix an immature brain that does not yet have good judgment, and it’s time to fasten your seat belts because you’re in for a bumpy ride.
One of the issues you will address with both sexes, partially due to the fluctuating hormones, will be acne. There are many causes of skin problems, and hormones are only one. Some others are largely under your child’s control like diet and cleanliness. If your child starts to break out in acne, try eliminating all refined sugars (cookies, cakes, candies, etc.), eliminating fast foods (especially greasy ones), and eating as naturally as possible. Also emphasize cleanliness, especially if your child is an athlete who sweats a lot. If these natural solutions aren’t enough, consult your doctor or research some products specifically designed to combat acne like Proactiv. The tween years are hard enough emotionally without having a face full of zits.
As your child matures, the sweat glands under the arm pits will change and start to emit more powerful odors. No need to start early, but when you notice the change in fragrance, introduce the use of deodorants. I personally don’t like antiperspirants because of their aluminum content, but you can make your own decision.
The most obvious changes in puberty for boys will the enlargement of the penis and testes, and the development of the internal supporting parts. He will start to grow pubic hair, hair under his arms, thicker, darker body hair, and soon facial hair. He will begin his growth spurt toward adult size and his voice will begin to crack and eventually get deeper. You may want to explain the difference between circumcised and uncircumcised penises, and why your child’s is the way it is.
Probably the most emotional event will be the first ejaculation, which normally will occur in a wet dream. Prepare your child for this event by explaining about erections (he may have already had one) and the different function of the penis when pointing up or pointing down. It’s a good idea to teach your child how to do his own laundry, using cold water to keep the semen stains from setting, and perhaps either an enzyme cleaner or hydrogen peroxide on light colored fabrics to pre-treat the stains, so that he can clean up his own mess when it happens.
The most obvious changes in puberty for girls will be the onset of menstruation (the period) and the development of the internal supporting parts. She will start to grow pubic hair, hair under her arms, thicker, darker hair on her legs, perhaps some facial hair, her breasts will begin to bud, and her hips will begin to widen. She also may begin a growth spurt toward adult size, and she may reach her full height younger than her male counterparts, especially if she will not be tall. Makeup can increase problems with acne, so use as little as possible and be sure to remove it every day.
You will need to prepare your daughter on how to deal with the first blood. It may occur at night, but it may occur anywhere, at any time, including at school. Explain the difference between a tampon and a pad, and which you recommend, and why. Practice using one so that she will be mentally and emotionally prepared, and when it happens, she can just go into action. Tell her where to find (or keep) a tampon or pad, and how to excuse herself in order to apply it. If it occurs at night, just like with a boy, teach her to pre-treat the stain (with cold water and OxyClean) and wash her own sheets; likewise, if she stains her clothes, knowing how to launder them gives her some privacy.
For a deeper and more detailed discussion of age-appropriate discussions about puberty, sex, and more, click HERE to see your options starting at under a dollar.