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Preparing your child for puberty

You may find your child has lots of questions about puberty, or you may have to start the conversations.

Providing information before puberty happens is vital for your child to understand what is happening to them. 

Remember – it is not one big puberty talk, it’s about offering bits of information when teachable moments arise (and you may have to help those moments to happen). 

When my periods started, I was given an information booklet and told that I couldn’t have sleepovers anymore. I don’t want it to be like that for my daughters.

Parent of girls 9 and 10

How to answer some common puberty questions

What is puberty?
Puberty is when your body starts to change from a child’s body to an adult one – a body that is (usually) able to make a baby.

It will happen gradually over a number of years. Everyone is different.

Puberty can start anywhere between the ages of 8 and 15, but often it will start around the age of 10 or 11 and continues past 18.

What usually happens during puberty?Your body starts to release special hormones. These travel in your blood and trigger the changes in your body. Most of these changes happen to all genders but some changes depend on the body parts that you have.

Some of the changes happen to your body:
• brain changes and develops
• grow taller
• gain weight
• sweat more and get body odour
• hair grows in armpits and around genitals (pubic hair)
• voice deepens
• pimples and acne on face, neck, chest, back
• ovaries start to release eggs (ova and menstruation begins (periods)
• breasts grow
• hips widen
• erections
• wet dreams
• testicles start to make sperm 
• penis grows.

Some happen to the way you think and feel:
• mood changes - feeling emotional, annoyed, giggly, excited
• feelings of attraction to others.

Some happen to the way you relate to other people:
• gain more independence and responsibility.

What are erections?An erection is when the penis gets hard and sticks out from the body – this happens when extra blood flows to the penis.

Boys get erections from the time they are babies but as they get older it happens more (especially during puberty).

Boys can get erections because they are nervous or excited, but sometimes it just happens for no obvious reason!

This can be embarrassing, but other people don’t usually notice it as much as the boy does.

What are wet dreams?During puberty, the testicles start to make sperm and semen, and sometimes while sleeping this semen leaks out (about a teaspoonful).

This might be because of a ‘sexy’ dream or because the penis was stimulated when it rubbed against the sheets. For some boys it happens once or twice; for others, more often.

Girls can have ‘sexy’ dreams too; they may find that their vagina is more wet than usual when they wake up.

If you have wet dreams, it is normal. If you don’t have wet dreams, that’s normal too.

You may find you need to wash your underwear, pyjamas or bed sheets after a wet dream. You might want to tell a parent, you might not. If you don’t want to tell, you can just take the underwear, pyjamas or sheets off and put them for washing.

What is body odour (BO)?During puberty you will probably start to sweat more and sweat that dries on your body may begin to smell.

You may need to have more showers, use deodorant and wash your clothes more often.