Puberty – when is a good time to have ‘the talk’?


February 7, 2013 by talkaboutyork

My eldest son is just about to turn 9. In my mind, he is still very much a little boy. But he now goes to a school with children aged 8 – 13. Recently he’s been saying certain things that lead me to believe he is exposed to a lot of playground chat of a slightly more grown up nature.

For example, we have a gay pub near our house. He finds this hilarious and points it out to just about everyone who comes to our house. It’s obvious to me that he’s heard talk about ‘gay people’ at school, but doesn’t fully understand it.

Sad really, he is three years younger than I was when I first heard the word gay (as in ‘homosexual’ rather than ‘jolly’). I distinctly remember sitting at school in a circle during playtime and someone said; ‘Ooh, it’s Thursday!’ Cue everyone screaming and sitting far apart from each other. I followed suit not having a clue what was going on. After the bell rang, I asked a friend what the heck that was about.

She said, ‘You know, Thursday is gay day.’

‘Oh right,’ I nodded, still none the wiser.

To this day, I have no idea why Thursday was gay day, but I did manage to figure out that gay meant homosexual which meant people of the same sex liking each other which is why everyone sat apart, to prove the point that they weren’t gay. Got to love the sensitivity of kids, eh.

So I’ve been reading up on puberty to find out at what age you should speak to your son/daughter about it. Girls start puberty about two years before boys, although according to today’s Daily Mail (apologies in advance for quoting this particular newspaper) many little boys are going through puberty aged 9. And from what I’ve read (elsewhere, not the Daily Mail), children need to know about puberty before it happens to them.

Now in our house we’ve always had pretty open and frank conversations about bodies. I recall telling the boys aged 4 and 6 exactly how babies were made because they asked and I figured I could make up something about a stork or special cuddles or I could give them the biological facts. Which I did in a deadpan kind of voice. They accepted that without much fuss, the same way they would if I explained that the sky is blue. I thought a drip feed approach would work best and avoid the whole need for ‘the talk’, which is why we have on occasion discussed periods and erections and growing hair and voices breaking.

But now I think we’ve reached the point where we need to have a bit more detail (from someone other than me, because obviously mums know nothing, while an expert in a book knows best). So I’ve been scouting around on Amazon for some books. The problem is that many of the books give a little toooo much information for a nine year old. Yes, I want him to learn about personal hygiene and body changes, even sex, but no I don’t want him learning about anal sex and blow jobs aged 9. (I am already dreading the spike in visitors this post is likely to receive from weirdos who search on these words). I also want him to understand the emotional changes that will happen and why he may feel the way he does.

So I’ve ordered two. This one

and this one

I shall read them first to check the suitability of content and will then give them to him to read or possibly read them with him. I want him to get the facts before he starts hearing the wrong facts at school. I’m hoping at 9 we can still have this kind of chat without him bursting into flames of embarrassment like a Phoenix on burning day.

I’d love to get other opinions though. What age is the right age to have this chat? Is 9 too young or am I already late? Which books would you recommend? Are there any tips you can share?


7 thoughts on “Puberty – when is a good time to have ‘the talk’?

  1. Potty Mummy says:

    Funny enough (or, given that our boys are similar ages, not surprisingly at all) was just wondering this myself – and if I left it to OH it would never happen as he just won’t get round to it. So will be VERY interested to hear which – if either – of those books you recommend!

  2. Lynette says:

    Yes, please let us know which book you like best. I have a few years to prepare, but would rather prepare than be caught unawares!

  3. I have a daughter so I’m not really sure about boys but like you I’ve always tried to be quite open about conversations on the topics of bodies and sex and all that Stuff. My policy was to just tell the basic stuff, answer questions and don’t elaborate–when they’re ready for elaboration they’ll ask. It’s worked so well that my daughter feels she can ask me most things. For the rest, I also did a google search and bought some books.

    However, I will say that my very sweet teenage step son was discovered to be googling all kinds of interesting words–the most tame being ‘lesbian’ when he was 11. He simply wanted to know what the other guys were talking about. I think it’s important that kids learn things from us rather than their friends or the internet, but I also think it’s important that kids don’t feel ignorant in front of their friends. Is it so bad if our kids learn what different words mean before their friends do? I don’t know. When I discovered my 13 year old daughter googled ‘blow jobs’ and I saw the photo she found in the history, I used it as an opportunity to discuss it with her–I didn’t tell her off for being curious (and yes, perhaps we should have internet controls). One thing I pointed out in our discussion was that real BJs certainly don’t look like THAT. 😉

  4. I will let you all know what the books are like and will report back with how ‘the talk’ goes

  5. Alison says:

    I read your ‘drip feed’ approach to information as ‘deep fried’, which definitely confused me for a couple of a minutes and means I’ve probably been living in America too long. Good luck! I’m with you on the Atticus Finch – don’t lie to children approach. If they’re interested in a question they’ll know if you’re not telling the truth and will become more intrigued, but if you tell as simply as possible they rapidly lose interest!!!

  6. Iota says:

    I like your drip feed approach (and I use it too). I also think a book is good – as children we had “Where do Babies come from”, and it was well thumbed. It give children the tools to think about the issue and mull it over, in slow time, in the privacy of their own rooms, without a parent anxiously asking questions.

    In my experience, there isn’t one “the talk”. It’s an ongoing thing. You wouldn’t explain about table manners to your child, and then expect him to know all about them. Any process of education involves repetition. I was surprised, though, by my eldest, who had listened to me explain where babies came from, and then when I asked him about it a few weeks later, denied all knowledge. I hadn’t realised that you couldn’t just tick that box, parental duty done, and move on.

  7. Thanks for all the comments. Some feedback on the books – the Puberty for boys book is fantastic at look at all the changes boys go through as they progress from boy to man, particularly emotionally and how they need to change their thinking from being self-serving to outward looking. But I think it’s too grown up for my 9 year old. It would go over the top of his head. Plus there are lots and lots of ‘real accounts’ of boys and men on the subject of masturbation – which again will be very useful for when he’s slightly older, but it’s a bit TMI right now.

    The other book spells out the facts a bit more and is better suited to his age. I gave it to him. He flicked through it nonchalantly. But he then surreptitiously returned to it. He hasn’t read it cover to cover, but I basically told him that if he heard boys at school talking about things which he didn’t understand, to feel free to ask me or his dad or if he’d prefer, to look in the book to see if they covered it. So basically I have opened the door for any potential discussions as and when he’s ready to have them or to get the correct info when he needs it.

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