Skip Nav

Which Parent Should Explain Puberty?

Which Parent Should Explain Puberty?

Teaching a child about puberty is part of parenting. But discussions with daughters about puberty and periods can be uncomfortable for many moms. Even more daunting, say some, is discussing puberty with a son when you haven't experienced the changes he'll go through first-hand. That's why I was nearly aghast when my friend Sally told me that her husband is going to be the one to explain puberty to their three daughters.

Even if her husband doesn't mind giving "the talk," I worried that Sally's daughters will hesitate about turning to their dad for such important information. Yet after giving it more thought, her decision started to make some sense to me. After all, single-parent moms like Circle of Moms member Debbie C. are forced to explain puberty to their sons because there's no other parent who can. She feels there's no reason why fathers can't teach daughters about puberty despite having different "equipment" — even when both parents are around. And dads of disabled daughters have to help their children of the opposite sex with personal and sensitive tasks. Glenda P.'s husband helps their 12-year-old daughter bathe, get dressed, and with toileting because she is not physically capable of doing the tasks herself. "He will continue to do whatever needs to be done as long as she is comfortable with it," this Circle of Moms member asserts.

When I delved deeper into the question of which parent handles the puberty talk and why, I found that Sally, Debbie, and Glenda are in good company. Here, as shared by Circle of Moms members, are three reasons why you might opt to take the lead on explaining puberty to your son, or why you might prefer that your husband do so with your daughter.

1. Comfort Level Trumps Gender

My friend Sally grew up in a very conservative household and her mother never talked about sex or puberty, whereas Sally's husband had a very open upbringing. Sally says her husband is the best person to give the puberty talk because he'll teach the correct information, whereas she blushes even when she calls private parts by nicknames.

Circle of Moms member Dr. Karen Ruskin would agree with Sally and her husband that whichever parent is most at ease with the topic be the one to give the talk. She explains that a child can develop discomfort expressing feelings if she feels her parent is uncomfortable discussing them, "and very quickly, even the young child will learn not to express himself if time and time again his voice is stifled by the lack of responsiveness."

Kattia P. and Lisa L. echo the thought: "When things are hush-hush, it brings a level of shame," which is the last thing a mom wants her daughter to feel about her body, says Kattia. And Lisa feels that it's important for children to know they can ask their parent any question and get an answer, no matter how embarrassing it sounds.

2. Any Talk is Better Than No Talk

Several Circle of Moms members whose own mothers neglected to prepare them for their periods say they were afraid, and that knowing exactly what was happening to them would have calmed their fears. Stacey J. recalls that getting her period at age 11 "shocked the hell" out of her because she knew very little about them.

Suzan M. would hate for her daughter to be as scared as a friend's daughter, who thought she was dying when she got her first period at age 10 and wrote a note to her family telling them how much she loved them. "I know a lot of us didn't have a real discussion with our parents, but [periods and puberty are] a fact of life and shouldn't be made a big deal of, but should be discussed ahead of time just to set expectations and so there's no fear," she says.

A member named Margaret warns that if your child turns to outside sources like friends to get answers about puberty, he could be in great danger of getting incorrect information. Debbie's story corroborates this concern. After realizing that her 11-year-old son was picking up on innuendos in movies and TV, looking up topics on the Internet, and gleaning information, not all of it correct, from his friends, she now actively sorts facts from fiction with him.

With cautionary tales like these, Sally reasons that having her husband give the talk is better than avoiding the discussion entirely.

3. One Parent is Already the "Go-to"

Many Circle of Moms members find that a family's pattern of communication around a topic like sex education is established early. As Susie H. began teaching her own sons about how babies are made and born at the age of 6, and it felt natural for her to continue the dialogue with them when they were ready to hear about puberty. As a child's need for information evolves, she explains, whichever parent took the lead when they were very young becomes their natural point person.

Lisa L.'s story is similar. If you are "ready to be open with beginner questions, later they will be comfortable to come to you when the questions get harder and more personal," she says. Her son is honest and upfront with her, while he rarely asks his father for information, because she established an open dialogue with him early on.

As a single mom, Alice A. says she addresses the topic of puberty with her son as she does with any other topic — "openly and honestly, and a little at a time."

Truth be told, my husband won't explain puberty to my daughters — I have two sons. But, like Christina D., even when I jokingly tell my husband that certain topics are "his department," I view teaching my sons about puberty as part of my shared responsibilities in our two-parent family. Moreover, if my sons are willing to ask me questions about puberty, I'll be grateful that they have an open dialogue with one of us, even if it's me instead of my husband. And I suspect Sally — and her husband — feel the same.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Latest Family