Ask the Educator: “As a parent, what if I don’t know enough about puberty?”

Question: I’m a single mom with a son. I want to talk to him about puberty but, to be honest, I don’t really know what to tell him. What should I do?

Talking about puberty can be a difficult conversation for parents. Talking about changing bodies, sexuality, and growing up can be uncomfortable for both parent and youth. However, these are very important conversations to have. You can prevent a lot of worry and discomfort by addressing puberty early on.

But what do you say? This article is to provide you with a general guideline to what happens during puberty. This article will focus on physical changes but there are also a lot of emotional and social changes that occur during the teen years.

The important thing to remember is that every young person’s puberty is individual. What is normal for one young person may not be for another. And every young person grows in their own time. If you are concerned about your child’s growth, talk to your doctor. They will know what’s normal and what isn’t.

For young people assigned male at birth, puberty generally starts between 10-11 years old. Changes include:

  • Growth spurts
  • A deepening of the voice
  • Growth of facial and body hair (including pubic hair)
  • Growth of the genitals
  • And first ejaculation (usually in a young person’s sleep- sometimes called a “wet dream”)

Your child may worry they aren’t growing fast enough, that they’re too short, and may wonder if they’ll ever grow facial hair. It’s important to remind them that growing up takes time and that everyone grows at a different rate. They may also feel embarrassment about wet dreams and erections. These feelings are a normal part of growing up.

For young people assigned female at birth, their puberty tends to start a little earlier between 8-13 years old. Changes include

  • Growth spurt
  • Growth of body hair (including pubic hair)
  • Growth of breasts
  • First menstruation (period)

These youth may worry about being too tall, their breast size, and when their period is going to start. Again, it’s important to assure your child that every young person grows at their own rate and to try not to compare themselves to their peers. They may also feel embarrassment about sexual feelings. Again, these feelings are a normal part of growing up and important to address.

This can be a very exciting (or dreadful) time in a young person’s life. This is when they begin to really grow up. It is ok to talk about puberty with your children and hopefully this article served as a starting point for conversation.

Have questions about puberty, sexuality, health, and the teenage years? Submit your question at or by emailing me directly at