Expert Series {Answers from Rites of Passage– all things puberty}



pubertyWe are excited to introduce you all to Jodi Kaye….

Jodi, from The Rites of Passage, has been a Registered Nurse for almost 20 years! Motherhood and her career have led to a love and appreciation for teaching, parenting, and addressing children’s issues.

Jodi began teaching puberty education classes to help others contribute to the growth and education of their children and has been helping families to openly discuss puberty and adolescent stages since early 2013. She has found that the best way to accomplish this is by developing and delivering high quality educational workshops meant to encourage and strengthen the parent-child relationship and communication methods. 

Visit The Rites of Passage website for puberty and reproduction classes available for boys and girls through teens.

 Your puberty questions/answers:

When is the right time to start talking about puberty with kids? Is it different for boys and girls?
The best time to begin talking about puberty is BEFORE it starts. I’m a huge proponent for taking away the scary factor of the unknown by telling children the information they will need to be comfortable through these stages, before they get there. I begin teaching puberty education in my classes to children 8 and up.

When is the right time/age to have the big talk (s-e-x)? I feel like my child is too young but I also don’t want her to learn about this at school first.
It is never too soon to teach kids about sex. In fact, the younger they are, the less gross factor there tends to be. The conversation for a younger child will obviously look much different than it will for an older child. For younger kids, it could be as simple as saying that a woman and man make a baby together and the baby grows inside a safe place in it’s mother called the uterus. When the baby finishes growing, it will squeeze through the vagina to come out. (PLEASE use the correct terms for body parts!!) That is a very appropriate explanation for a younger child. As they get older and can handle more details, the talks will also take on a more grown up approach. This should never just be one talk, but several little talks that explain the values and beliefs that are important to your family. If you tackle it all in one talk, it will be overwhelming and way too much information. Keep the talks comfortable, put your brave face on, and let your children know that you are happy to be a resource to them for any topic, even sex. A sex talk can even be your beliefs on why it’s important to wait for the right time/person. I begin teaching reproduction in my classes at around 10 or 11 years old.

When is the right age for girls to start wearing a bra?
The right time for a bra is different for each girl depending on their developmental age. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself: 1. Does she feel self-conscious about what shows under her shirt? 2. Do you notice developing breast buds when you look at her? 3. Is she uncomfortable when running or playing sports? 4. Does she feel awkward changing her clothes in front of friends or family? If the answer is yes to any of these, it is probably a great time to look at bra options.

Is there a requirement by law for schools to teach puberty? What are their requirements and standards vs. your classes?
So this is a really scary reality. As of 2016, the general requirements for sex and HIV education in schools was as follows: 24 states mandate sex education (Arizona is NOT one of them). 13 states require that the instruction be medically accurate (yes, you read that right! and Arizona is NOT one of them). 26 states require that the information be age appropriate (Arizona IS one of those). I find that many schools don’t want to touch this topic because of the many different beliefs that each family has and the risk they face teaching such a ‘controversial’ topic. My classes are fact-based puberty and reproductive education that involves the parent AND child. The facts are taught in class in a fun and educational way, while encouraging parent and child comfort with talking about this subject. When the conversations can begin, the beliefs and values that are important to each individual family are then taught by the parent after class is over. The tough talks are done in class, the bonding talks are done after.

How do you suggest parents show their children they are a safe place to ask questions, especially for the child apprehensive about talking about these topics with their parents?
Do not wait for your kids to talk to you. If you are waiting for your kids to ask you questions, you have to remember that they are asking questions because of something they have already heard or seen. The more parents are able to put aside their own discomfort with this topic, the more kids will see that going to their parents for this type of information doesn’t have to be awkward at all. We are our children’s primary educators. We teach them about everything in life. Talking about puberty and sex with your kids should be no different than educating them on the dangers of talking to strangers or how to ride a bike. This is important information they need as well so it is super important for there to be no subject that is taboo or off limits. If you want to pass on your values and beliefs about this subject, you gotta speak up. If your kids can see you’re uncomfortable, they will not come to you for this information.

What if your young child (9 year old) is questioning their sexuality, is there a book I should read and/or they should read? Is this too young to even be talking about this? I am at a loss on what the right steps I should take to help them or how to answer their questions. Not too young at all actually. Self esteem is hugely affected in children of this age group. I am very much a proponent of open communication around all of these topics, whenever they may come up. If done in an age appropriate way, these can be wonderful conversations that help to put your child’s mind at ease. Some children know from a very young age that they feel “different” than others. Others start sensing something around the time of puberty or later. When children question their sexuality, it can lead to a decrease in self esteem, confusion, and a lot of emotional conflict. Being supportive of however your child “feels” will help to keep the lines of communication open and let your child know that they can talk to you about their feelings and that they have support from their family. I feel that books are a wonderful way for children to learn about these topics in addition to talking to parents. Books can be a way for them to find out their own information (empowering) and see that there are others out there who feel exactly the same way they do. Hit up your local library or bookstore to check out the options. There is one I recommend for transgender kids called I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

How do you deal with the hormone swings in pre-teenagers? I want to be supportive but I also can barely handle being around her.
Oh, those hormonal swings…not fun! Totally normal, but also totally challenging to deal with! I could write a book to answer this question because it is so multifaceted. First off, know that YOUR feelings are totally normal and you are not alone in feeling frustrated and at wits end sometimes. The best quick answer for this is to set consistent limits with what you feel should be expected behavior in your house. There are no ways to make the mood swings go away except to know that they will eventually grow out of them. Consistency is key. I frequently tell my children that it is ok to be frustrated and it is even ok to be angry. However, it is not ok to speak in a disrespectful way to me when all I am trying to do is be here for them and help them. They will regularly need reminders of this. If you wouldn’t let a stranger talk to you this way, it is ok to expect the same from your child. Helpful reminders to find a healthier alternative to disrespectful behaviors (such as quiet time in their rooms, journaling, talking it out, playing a sport, listening to music, etc) until the mood passes, can be a great way to set those limits. Ex: “Until you can talk to me in a way that is respectful, you need to spend some time in your room. When you are calm enough to talk to me in a normal way, I would be happy to talk to you about your feelings.” Hardest part, try to remain calm. When we raise our voices, it escalates the situation.

How do hormones effect boys, different then girls during puberty?
It is the hormones in our bodies that are responsible for all of the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty. Boys and girls actually have all of the same hormones floating around in their bodies as they go through puberty, but the levels of those hormones are different for boys and girls. Because they all have the same hormones, the changes that boys and girls experience through puberty are similar (such as body growth, growth of body hair, feet getting bigger, etc). The ways that make boys and girls different however, is because of the hormone levels in their bodies. Higher testosterone levels helps boys to develop a deeper voice, their chests to become bigger and broader, growth of hair on the face, neck, chest, and back, etc. Higher estrogen and progesterone levels lead to growth of breasts and menstruation for example. As far as moods go, these hormonal changes can bring on emotional ups and downs in both boys and girls, including tears and/or anger.

My 2nd grader has had body odor since kindergarten. Is this normal? We shower daily, use natural deodorant and change clothes frequently. I’m nervous that other kids will notice and she’ll feel self-conscious. At what age do kids typically get BO and is there a cause for concern if they get it early? What else can be done to naturally help with Kid BO?
Typically, body odor becomes an issue as kids begin going through puberty (between the ages of 10-15 or so) with the release of hormones and also sweat mixing with bacteria present on the skin. The most common remedies to treat BO are good hygiene (regular showers and good cleaning in common stinky areas such as the armpits, groin, etc.), eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water, using deodorant, and keeping clothes clean as you had stated. Body odor at such a young age is unusual and should be checked out by a doctor as in some cases, there could be a medical issue causing early body odor.

It seems that puberty is happening earlier than when we were kids. At what age does it start for boys? Girls?
Normal age for puberty in girls is between 8-13, boys around 9-15

What are signs of early puberty in girls? In boys? And what should you do if you notice those signs?
Precocious puberty – the onset of signs of puberty in girls before age 7-8 in girls and before age 9 in boys. Signs for girls – breast development, growth of body hair (pubic and underarm), menstruation, acne/pimples, body odor, and a growth spurt (in height, in foot size). Boys – growth of body hair, enlargement of genitals, voice deepening, growth spurt, acne/pimples, and body odor. If you notice these signs in a child in this age group, you should speak with his or her pediatrician to see what their medical opinion is.

How as parents can we help our kids through the hormonal shifts (meaning, moodiness) they’re experiencing? What can we say? What can we do?
Hormonal shifts are about as predictable and easy to understand as the path of a tornado! They can come on very suddenly and unexpectedly and quite without any warning at times. Hormonal changes are actually one of the first changes we will see as puberty begins and can start as early as age 8-10 years old. A friend of mine gave me some excellent advice when my daughter first started to experience these emotional shifts and it went a little something like this, “Observe the monkey, listen and nod your head at the monkey, but whatever you do, do NOT get into the monkey cage with the monkey!” This was obviously a lighthearted piece of girlfriend advice but I think it rings very true to dealing with these emotional ups and downs. Our kids want to be seen and heard and acknowledgement of their frustrations in words they can understand go a long way to helping them feel less frustrated. The best part of this advice was the part about not joining in the craziness. It is very easy to want to react back when we are treated badly. Try to keep calm while explaining to your child that you would love to help them get to the bottom of what is bothering them but you will not tolerate disrespectful behavior. During periods of calmness, spend time talking with your child about positive ways to deal with their emotions instead coming from an angry and misunderstood place. I share a lot of great articles about this on my Facebook page.

What are some good resources, books or websites, for both parents and kids on body development, puberty, etc?
I have a list of all the books I love as resources on my website under the Resources tab. There are some great books out there to give to your children or to read with them. My favorite website resource is Kids Health. It has a section for parents and a separate section for kids so both adults and kids can do healthy research on what is normal.

If your child is experiencing early puberty, what is typically done for them and are there any long-term consequences to “stopping” the onset of puberty? What about long term consequences of allowing puberty to happen too early?
This depends on the child and the rate of development. Some young children may show one early sign of precocious puberty (such as breast growth, or growth of body hair) without any other signs showing up. Precocious puberty should be assessed by their doctor but if it isn’t true early puberty, they will usually finish maturing at the normal age of puberty. If true precocious puberty is diagnosed, there are some concerns with such early puberty in kids. When puberty ends, growth in height also usually ends. Even though a child going through early puberty may look much taller than their friends, they may end up being shorter than they would have having gone through puberty at the normal time. Kids can also have problems with self-esteem and security because they are physically maturing much earlier than their friends and could be teased or become self-conscious because of this. With girls, early emotional changes and moodiness will be noted and with boys, they may be noticed to be more aggressive and have an earlier sex drive that is inappropriate for their age group. To diagnose this, doctors will order blood tests and possibly x-rays to confirm a diagnosis of early onset puberty. They may then refer parents to an endocrinologist for further assessment and treatment.

At what age should a parent be concerned that their child has not yet gone through puberty?
Delayed puberty in girls is usually diagnosed by no breast growth by around age 13 or lack of menstruation by the age of 16 years. Delayed puberty in boys is diagnosed when puberty has not begun by age 14 (including enlargement of the testicles and penis as well as no pubic hair). Some of the causes of delayed puberty are genetic (meaning it runs in your family) and lack of body fat (which is needed by the body to give it the energy we need for such quick growth). With routine yearly pediatrician exams, your child’s doctor will be able to tell you if this is a concern of theirs depending on how your child is developing. They will take a family history, perform a physical exam, and probably run some tests to confirm this diagnosis and plan treatment if needed.

We owe a huge thank you to Jodi Kaye for being our Ask an Expert for March and for providing us all these awesome answers to our questions!

We are now taking questions for our next Ask an Expert! If you have a question for a local real estate agent, Renee Niskanen from Rockstar Realty AZ, comment below or email your questions directly to SMB at [email protected]



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