Born ready to face puberty

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By Melissa Meehan

In an online centric world, our kids are growing up quicker.

They have access to so much information, so much more than generations past.

So talks about the birds and the bees, puberty and other things our parents used to teach us by leaving a book on the end of the bed (and running in the other direction) need to happen earlier.

That’s where Michelle Mitchell comes in.

The author of A Guy’s Guide to Puberty and A girls Guide to Puberty says it’s completely normal to grapple with when those conversations need to happen.

“The good news is that they were born ready,” she said.

“But between the ages of eight and 10 is the perfect time to make a start.

“And they are important conversations to have, because they are being exposed to many things earlier than we were, because they are online.”

Michelle shares that she was recently giving a talk to a group of 10 year olds, one of whom was contacted by a modelling agency via social media and asked to give them her contact details.

“That kind of thing brings some urgency to those conversations,” she said.

“Because these young kids can be making really critical decisions for themselves.

“It is a much more sexualised world.”

Michelle, a former teacher, has spent the last 20 years working with disengaged young people and speaking at scools about puberty.

And she says it’s increasingly evident that parents are needing to have these conversations with younger kids.

Previously they’d say 12 is a good time to talk about sexuality, but Michelle says between the age of eight and 10 is often the sweet spot.

Each of child has their own special needs which may include trauma, birth order, disabilities, learning challenges or emotional maturity.

Some signs they are ready:

* Become embarrassed about being naked in front of others

* Start gravitating towards same sex friends

* Curious about gender differences, pregnancy, sex

* Begin to discuss sexual concept without any degree of accuracy

* Interested in knowing more about their bodies

* Ask questions

* Look at parent’s bodies differently

Michelle’s books act as a starting point which will open up the conversations at home.

The books, each aimed at either sex, explains how to care for your body, emotions and brain.

“If we want open hearted conversations with our kids about tough topics we have to be prepared to initiative them in an open-hearted way,” she said.

“I personally think that they should never have to be the one who initiates difficult conversations, so always assume they need you and step into that space. Let’s be prepared to go to them, and in doing so grow with them.”

Her book isn’t a tough read either, it very cleverly includes cartoons that simplify some of the bigger issues and break it down so that younger kids can understand without being overwhelmed.