Talking about body science and puberty with your child


Talking about body science and puberty with your child
Talking about body science and
puberty with your child
Dr. Claire Vanston
Evidence-Based Education, B.C. Canada
The Annual Fund
Canadian International School of
Hong Kong
“Knowledge itself has no intrinsic moral value;
it is the way in which that knowledge is put to use
that acquires an ethical dimension.”
Dr Francis S. Collins,
Lead Researcher,
International Human Genome Project
About Me
•  Ph.D (psychology/human sexuality)
–  Simon Fraser University, B.C. Canada (2005)
–  PT faculty at Capilano University (2004)
–  Sessional faculty at Vancouver Island University (2010)
–  Published researcher and academic author
•  Psychology and human sexuality
–  Evidence-Based Education
•  Researcher not clinician
•  Proud parent of IB students!!
Why teach it at all?
•  Access to accurate sexual health information and
education is a human right
–  WHO, U.N., Amnesty International, World Association of Sexual Health. e.g.:
–  “Since health is a fundamental human right, so must sexual health also be a basic
human right” (World Health Organization, 1975)
–  “Sexual rights embrace human rights recognized in national laws and international
human rights standards. They include the right of all people, free of coercion,
discrimination and violence, to:
-seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality,
-education on sexuality,” (U.N., ICPD, 1994).
–  “It is clearly necessary for all youth to receive educational and health services that
prepare them for the reality and responsibilities of sexual behaviour. The lack of
such programs infringes on the right of all young people to make informed choices
about their health and places them at increased risk for significant negative health
outcomes (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, 2004)!!
Why teach it at all?
•  Everyone goes through puberty
•  All aspects of sexually are part of health and
•  Fosters positive outcomes later on (healthy
relationships, sexual ethics)
•  Reduces negative later outcomes (sexual assault,
unplanned pregnancies, infection, infertility)
•  Fosters sexual empathy, sexual respect and sexual
•  If we don’t do it their super peers will: TV,
Internet, friends!!
Why might parents teach it?
•  Because children listen to their parents
•  Because no one else can incorporate your family values
•  Because sharing information is safer than saying
•  Because it’s one more way to show them they are
•  Because parents teach safety and ethics to their children
•  Because it may not be covered at school!!
Sexual Health Education in
Schools: Questions and Answers
(3rd ed.).
Sex Information and Education
Council of Canada (2010)
Good News!
•  Starting earlier is easier for everyone
–  Information is easier
–  Great resources
–  Foundational
–  It doesn’t have to start with sex, and you don’t have to
talk about sex if you don’t want to
–  Shy and embarrassed are normal and fine for both of you
–  You are the expert on your child
–  Their curiosity and interest is normal!!
What should they know?
•  Consider developmental maturity
•  Pre-school to grade 3
–  Proper scientific words for genitals
–  Private parts on the body
•  Underwear rule:
•  Parents, medical professionals
•  Feelings inform us about touch
–  Genital hygiene
–  Trusted adults!!
What are the proper scientific words
for genitals?
•  Genitals, penis, scrotum, testicles, anus, breasts,
nipples, navel, vulva, vagina, urethra, clitoris,
labia, uterus, stool, urine
•  Some families use both non-scientific and
scientific terms
–  E.g. boobies and breasts
•  Don’t have to discuss sexual function!!
Does this information take away their
childhood innocence?
•  No
–  Knowledge and information are powerful:
•  Can tell a trusted adult if they have an injury or infection
•  Protects against abuse and grooming for abuse
–  Someone is talking to that child about private parts and privacy
•  Levels the playing field with peers
•  Many sources are already teaching them incorrectly:
–  TV shows, older siblings, Internet, apps, older children, advertisements
•  Educational is foundational – later education builds on earlier
•  Body science and puberty education are not sex education!!
•  Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6
•  Pubertal changes that happen to boys AND girls
–  Changes are normal and variable
•  Healthy friendships
–  Feelings tell us
•  Private parts on the body
•  Trusted adults
•  You can talk to me!!
Reproduction and Sex
•  Grade 5, 6 or younger
•  Consider
–  The peer group
–  Developmental maturity
–  Avoid waiting for them to ask about it
•  Many don’t
•  While you are waiting, others are teaching them!!
Reproduction and Sex
•  Continue to discuss puberty, hygiene, trusted adults
and private parts on the body
•  Reproduction: Conception, pregnancy, birth, lactation
•  Discussions of sex doesn’t have to be the X-rated
porn version
•  When sex comes up add:
–  Family values about sex
–  Sex is private
–  Risks and responsibilities of sex
•  Ethics, birth control, STIs, relationships, diversity!!
The overall message
Everyone changes from a child, to a teenager to an adult
Your changes are normal
Your body belongs to you
It’s your job to keep it clean
Families have values about this, and they might be
different from our family
•  Healthy relationships are caring, ethical, empathetic
and respectful
•  Sex is a private, ethical behaviour
–  Family values matter!!
Questions or Stories?
They honour us by asking
They NEVER come out of the clear blue
In older children it might be a story
It often takes great courage for them to ask
Our words and behaviour answers them
If they ask, they are old enough for a straight answer
–  Just answer the question
•  You don’t have to know all the answers
•  You don’t have to get naked
•  Opportunity to offer reassurance!!
When they hear something that frightens
Parents vary on how they feel about
discussing these topics
•  The earlier it is started, the easier it is
•  It’s okay to feel a bit weird
•  It doesn’t have to be a face to face chat
–  Leave books in room
–  Read books as part of evening routine
–  Email websites to older children
•  It doesn’t need to start with sex
•  Best if more than a single “talk”!!
There is LOTS of help out
•  The Web has great resources for puberty talks
–  For example:
•  And there are lots of good books too:
–  BTW the entire book does not need to be covered at first!!
Body science books Pre K - Gr. 3
•  What’s the Big Secret (2000)
–  Brown & Brown
•  It’s so Amazing (2002)
–  Harris & Emberley
•  Boys’ Girls and Body Science (2002)
–  Hickling
•  Who Has What? All About Girls Bodies and Boys Bodies (2011)
–  Harris & Westcott
More Books: Puberty
•  I also recommend these books:
•  The Period Book (2006)
–  Gravelle & Gravelle
•  “What’s Happening to my Body?” Book for Boys (2007)
–  Madaras & Madaras
•  The Boy’s Body Book (2013)
–  Dunham & Bjorkman
•  The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for
Younger Girls (2012)
–  Schaefer & Natterson
•  The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for
Older Girls (2012)
–  Natterson & Masse!!
This is a great book for parents:
•  The New Speaking of
Sex: What Your
Children Need to Know
and When They Need
to Know it
–  Meg Hickling R.N.
•  Also in the school library!!
It works!
One example: Study (2011) evaluated Parents Matter! program
Program teaches AA parents of preadolescence sexual communication and HIV-prevention
Randomized clinical trial
Parents who completed the enhanced Parents Matter program had better communication
with their children on abstinence, HIV/AIDS and condom use AND greater similarity of
responses on these topics.!!
You can always reach me
–  Resource links
–  Resource books
–  Contact
•  [email protected]
•  Facebook: (all one word)!!

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