Groping in the Dark

Ruthie Patriquin
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When is the puberty talk OK?

A parent asks: Q: When should I talk to my children about puberty changes?

A. Both boys and girls need to know what to expect before puberty changes begins (anywhere from age 8 in girls and from approx. age 10 in boys).

Programs that can help:

Growing Together is a program that parents and 9 - 12 year olds can attend together (except for the first night which is just for parents). The next series in Amherst begins October 29 and is for Girls and Parents. A program for Boys is being offered this fall in Oxford beginning November 13. During four evening sessions (2 hours each, once a week) the topics of puberty, reproduction, family communication and self esteem are explored. There is a fee but no one is turned away if they cant afford to pay.

The Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County (SHCCC) has been offering Growing Together since 1991 and many parents and children have enjoyed this group opportunity to explore issues surrounding the changing years. Its also a great way to schedule some special time with your child. If this interests you, call 667-7500 to pre-register. Children (and parents) are often relieved to see that their peers have the same questions and feelings about this time of life.

Books and Videos, etc.:

Maybe a group isnt for you or doesnt fit your schedule.

There are some excellent pamphlets, books and videos available to help parents and children understand puberty changes. The Sexual Health Centre, 11 Elmwood Dr., Amherst, has the areas largest, most up-to-date sexuality education library with resources for loan at no charge. The Changing Years Parent Kit: a sexuality education kit for parents of 9 - 12 year olds, is available at their office and they have also donated a kit to each Cumberland County elementary school to make it easy for parents to borrow . If the Kit doesnt have what youre looking for, SHCCC has many other resources on puberty.

The Web: there are lots of excellent websites on puberty including

Some are more technical and some are more funky. If you want to use the internet as a resource, check some sites out first and then look at the ones you think are best with your child to see which ones she/he likes best.

In Cumberland County, most students get one session (45 minutes - one hour) on puberty in the classroom sometime during grade five.

Although this is an important part of their health information, it does not replace the need for parents to talk with them. One class cannot cover everything they need to know, cannot answer all their questions.

When parents are able to talk about puberty it opens the doors to talking about other important topics on which children need guidance. Its a chance to share family values. Kids want to know what their parents think.

Speaking of questions, just because your child is not asking any, doesnt mean they dont have them. Maybe theyre too shy to ask or have gotten the message that they cant bring up this subject. Even if they dont have questions, they need to be prepared for the changes puberty bring.

So, take a deep breath, get help if you need it, and keep talking. Your kids will thank you someday.

For information on talking with your children and teens about puberty and other aspects of sexuality, contact the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County, 11 Elmwood Dr. (side entrance), Amherst (667-7500), the Teen Health Centre at Amherst Regional High (661-2383, ext 137).

Organizations: Sexual Health Centre, Teen Health Centre

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Amherst, Oxford Elmwood

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