Dear Dr. Bill,
My 8-year-old daughter is showing a few of the early developmental signs of puberty, and she’s been asking a lot of questions. I recently read “Preparing for Adolescence” by Dr. James Dobson, and he recommends talking to kids about puberty and sex between the ages of 10 and 13. Should I have this discussion now, or should I wait until she is closer to 10?
Although 8 years old is young for a girl to begin showing signs of puberty, the research shows that the onset of puberty for girls is occurring at a much younger age than it did a generation ago.
When Dr. Dobson wrote the curriculum for Preparing for Adolescence in the late 1970’s, he suggested the 10-13-year-old window for an important reason. If we talk to our kids about the changes that occur in puberty too early, they won’t show much of an interest or retain the information.
On the other hand, if we wait too long, after a child has already entered puberty, they may be very self-conscious about the changes occurring in their body. In fact, many kids who are in the midst of puberty will feel embarrassed or ashamed to have that kind of discussion with their parents.
Due to the earlier onset of puberty, particularly in girls, many parents may want to “move up” that discussion to an earlier age. Given the fact that your daughter is showing early signs of sexual development, and is asking a lot of questions, I’d encourage you to start talking about the issue now.
By the way, I encourage parents to start talking to their kids about sexuality from an early age, using age-appropriate language and concepts.
Given today’s culture, it’s crucial to help them develop an accurate healthy view of sexuality from the time they are toddlers. It’s not enough to simply have one “birds and the bees” talk with our kids during the pre-teen years.
Thanks for writing Vicki. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.