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I don't understand why some children are 'shielded' from the idea of puberty

(144 Posts)
MissQueueQ Thu 18-May-17 12:29:31

My child is 10 and last week the class teacher gave them a chat about puberty. Boys were split from girls. Periods weren't mentioned. Just very minor stuff such as "you may notice a bit of hair growing in places where it doesn't normally"; "your chest might start to change shape" etc. Parents were invited to attend.

Afterwards, a few of the mums (not sure about the dads as they were away in the boys' class) were giggling to each other and a few others were saying how they thought it was about time they had 'the changing talk' with their daughters later.

I was actually quite shocked at how the talk was delivered and received. I suppose the teacher doesn't have any say in the content, so I'm not blaming her or anything. But these children are 10-11 and some still hadn't been told by their parents about puberty? And menstruation wasn't mentioned?? I asked afterwards when that would be discussed with the children and was told around primary 7. So when they're 11-12 year old.

I'm just pretty shocked that nothing has changed since when i was at school. Why haven't all parents already spoken to their kids about puberty by this age? In my daughter's class, i know for sure one girl began her period last year, and a fair few have began to develop in their chests (my daughter included).

I told a few of the mums afterwards that i didn't understand why they were worrying about having a talk with the daughters later. Hadn't they already been asking questions? A few awkward replies with a few trying to laugh it off. "Oh yes, but i just tell her we'll chat about it when she's older" etc.

I just don't get it at all. My mum never spoke to me or my sister about puberty or menstruation. I asked her later why not and she said it's because it was embarrassing (for her). And i remember whenever she was popping out to do the big monthly shop, she'd knock on my door and whisper "do you need any you know whats?" so that my brother didn't hear. And i got told off for leaving a towel once outside of the cabinet as my dad saw it!

I was brought up to think that periods were embarrassing and should be hidden from males. Which is maybe why i now think that actually, boys should be educated about periods. But i support segregation of sexes during the puberty chats at school so both boys and girls can ask questions to the teacher without being embarrassed. But i still think menstruation should be included in these chats for the boys so that it's normalised.

I'm not meaning to be rude but this is really quite annoying me and other than 'because it's embarrassing' i don't know any other reason why children of this age ( many of whom have already started puberty!) haven't been told about it by their parents. Can anyone else shed any light?

I also don't really get the idea of having 'the talk' with your child about it. Surely when they're little and follow you everywhere, and see you in the toilet changing towels and getting dressed and ask questions about blood or "what are those lumps on your front", "why have you got hair there?"- you just answer there and then? I've never had 'a talk' with my child. It's all just fallen into place because I've always answered her questions factually but age-appropriately.

Sorry, i'm rambling now. If your child doesn't know about puberty and periods, can you explain why?

FuckMyUterus Thu 18-May-17 12:33:22

My son is 5, and walked in on me changing my tampon last month. He was terrified and I had to sit down and tell him about periods. I'm a little unsure about whether he's too young for the puberty talk yet, but I figure I have a couple of years before I have to broach the subject. Can't believe it's still so hushed up though, that's awful! I'd be complaining to the school I think.

Tootootootoo Thu 18-May-17 12:38:00

Probably mainly embarrassment - my friend has worked with primary teachers who are aghast at having to talk about these things. OTOH, friend would teach about erections and have genuine interest from boys afterwards, demonstrating how important it is.

Even more so now with earlier puberty and exposure to so much sexualised stuff.

I hope my daughter picks it up 'on the go' like you describe. We'll be using proper words and just answer any questions with the truth.

TeenAndTween Thu 18-May-17 12:38:26

Primary 7 is too late, some girls will have started periods by then.

Schools should be teaching this stuff before it is needed not after!
Our school covered it in y5 which is age 9-10 and I still thought it was a bit late and had covered it before then with my DDs.

I wonder if the curriculum for this is different between England and Scotland?

dementedpixie Thu 18-May-17 12:39:17

Ds has been getting sex education at school (is p6, age 10). They were not split and have talked about periods, wet dreams, erections, female anatomy (male anatomy next week). There was alsoba question box for them to put in questions they were too embarrassed to ask out loud.

Ds knew a lot as we have talked about puberty, sex, etc for years especially as we is 13 and has had periods since age 11. His teacher asked if we'd spoken to him as he put his hand up a lot to answer questions. There is no excuse not to let them know what will happen to their body and it should be spoken about in a matter of fact manner and not made out to be a big deal

bingolittle Thu 18-May-17 12:39:41

Just here to say that I totally agree.

My kids have known about this since they were tiny (for the reasons you mentioned: if they follow you into the loo, they're going to ask questions!).

Now they're around 10ish and don't appear to have been scarred for life by this knowledge. They just take it for granted. Same thing with "how babies are made". I'd much rather tell them when they're 4 or 5 than wait until they're 10: less embarrassing for them, less embarrassing for me.

Some of the other mums from my eldest DC's class were discussing how horrified their kids were to find out (at 11) about human reproduction and I was appalled. Why did they leave it till then?! Not that I said anything, obviously.

dementedpixie Thu 18-May-17 12:41:17

We should be dd btw

chasingmytail4 Thu 18-May-17 12:42:25

I had a mum who didn't tell me anything and I made a conscious decision that periods, etc, would be just a normal part of life for my children so we never needed "a talk'. The other day my DS (12) told me - without any hint of embarrassment - that he'd sat with his friend during break at school because she told him she had period pain. One of those moments when you feel you've done something right.

RedSkyAtNight Thu 18-May-17 12:42:27

DD's Y5 talk about puberty certainly included periods and lots of physical details about puberty.

And in Y5 the girls were all quite open about puberty/periods anyway, so not sure exactly why parents feel they don't want to discuss this at home ...?

dementedpixie Thu 18-May-17 12:45:43

I used to send my little brother to get sanitary towels if I'd forgotten to take one to the bathroom. He was 11 years younger and called them my nappies!

MissQueueQ Thu 18-May-17 12:46:45

Thanks for agreeing. I honestly felt like an alien during that talk last week. I just found the reactions of a lot of the other mums so odd. And that's the kind of talk i think should be getting delivered at all schools demented pixie.

So i suppose then it's up to the schools how they deliver puberty education and when? There aren't strict national guidelines? In that case, i think i should feed back some comments to the school that perhaps they could talk more in depth about certain things and definitely don't leave menstruation discussion until p.7!

Tomorrowillbeachicken Thu 18-May-17 12:50:37

I don't think this is universal. Our school had the period talk with the year fives a couple of weeks ago.

puddingpen Thu 18-May-17 12:52:24

Have none of these parents read/seen Carrie??? (lighthearted, obviously)

MissQueueQ Thu 18-May-17 12:54:07

Bingolittle my daughter also knows about sex and how babies are made. Although my friend the other week told me how wrong that is which made me feel quite bad about it. So i'm glad your child also know at a relatively young age.

Once again, i didn't have a 'sex talk' with her. Her knowledge of it just developed by asking questions from a young age and me answering them over the years. Although there are still quite a few gaps in her knowledge (she is very much under the impression that sex is only done to make a baby and for no other reason), i'd be happy to continue answering any further questions she has as and when she asks them.

I have told her though that some children don't know about sex yet and to be careful not to worry other children about it by chatting about it willy nilly in the playground.

JohnnyDeppsfuturewife Thu 18-May-17 12:54:40

I agree. Some girls start their periods at nine so why wouldn't you tell them earlier?

I have told my 8 year old the basics of sex over the last few months - as she was asking questions and I have bought a book on puberty as I haven't yet explained about periods. Dd is not that developed yet but some of her friends are so I feel she needs to understand about periods if only because her friends will be going through it soon.

It's embarrassing talking about these things with her but not as embarrassing as finding blood in your knickers at school and not knowing what to do which is what happened to me when I was 11.

silkpyjamasallday Thu 18-May-17 12:54:56

I did sex education from year 4, looking at plant reproduction, then human reproduction/puberty was covered between years 5 and 6. This was a state primary. When I went to a private secondary school we covered it again in year 7 and I was astonished that the girls who had come from the prep school attached to the secondary had done no sex education at all, some didn't even know about periods. I had got mine at 11 in the summer holidays after primary school, I got teased for having pubic hair at swimming lessons in school by some of the girls who didn't seem to realise they would get it too in the near future. Its irresponsible not to inform children of the changes that will be happening to them, especially as puberty is happening earlier and earlier. We heard about a girl who killed herself when she got her period as she thought she was dying, terribly sad and not out of the realms of possibility if menstruation isn't mentioned and treated as dirty and disgusting.

FriedPisces Thu 18-May-17 12:55:34

I feel quite strongly about this and have told my DC (11, 9 and 7) a while ago. My mother was also very embarrassed by the whole thing, called sanitary products "things" and I got short shrift for accidentally making my younger brother aware of periods.

My DC take it as matter of fact now instead of something that needs to be kept secret and shameful.

A close friend however won't tell her DC at all (12yo DS, 10yo DD) even though her own sister started periods early. I asked why and she said "they're not ready" even though both have asked a few times. Her kids I guess but I decided at a very young age I would be telling my kids about it early on.

Asheth Thu 18-May-17 12:56:37

My Ds learnt about puberty in I think Yr5, so aged 9 or 10. The boys and girls were split up for the talk, but both received the same talk so boys learnt about periods.

I've always kept sanitary products on a shelf in the bathroom, so there's never been any secrecy. I remember Ds1 asking me what they were when he was about six, his eyes glazing over in boredom about half-way through my explanation and then a few days later I heard him tell his younger brother "Did you know every month mummy lays an egg" grin

halcyondays Thu 18-May-17 13:01:11

At our school they don't do anything until last term of P.7 when they are nearly all 11, so far too late.

WideHorizon Thu 18-May-17 13:07:59

I'll be honest here and say I think part of the problem is that childhood obesity is becoming more and more common (and indeed normalised) which, for a lot of girls, is bringing menarche forwards to an age where they are (possibly) too young to understand it.

I'm fully expecting a barrage of anecdata from people whose beanpoles DD started her periods at 7 and vice versa, but on a population level, carrying excess body fat results in earlier menarche.

The level of denial about the effects of obesity is astonishingly high though, so I'm not sure what the answer is really.

paap1975 Thu 18-May-17 13:08:28

I think you have the right approach MissQueueQ. If you answer questions as they are asked and at an appropriate level, then there is never a big revelation moment to be had

MissQueueQ Thu 18-May-17 13:08:34

Seem that it's quite normal then for this not to be discussed at school until at least 9/10. Quite shocked that no discussion at all will take place at yours, halcyondays until p.7.

To be honest though, i'm very much of the belief that it's not the school's responsibility to teach the ins and outs of puberty. I think parents should be teaching children about it at home, and then schools are there to confirm the details (with their power point presentation/visual aids etc) and answer any questions, and talk about how how it relates to school, (sanitary bins in the toilets, who to report to if requiring an emergency sanitary towel, anti-bullying of peers about acne, body hair etc).

This could be a reason why schools are leaving it so late - in order to allow the majority of parents the opportunity to discuss it with their kids first (though that didn't seem to be the case at my daughter's school where a lot of the mum's were cringing throughout).

I wonder if talking about it at an earlier stage (age 7ish) in school would encourage more discussion at home or just cause a furore among parents who think their children shouldn't know about puberty until they're at high school!

patheticpanic Thu 18-May-17 13:13:00

Things have changed OP, I don't know what age you are but when I was at school sex education involved a text book with pictures of rabbits and a squirming biology teacher putting a condom on a banana. We were 14. It was a mixed sex class.

scoobydoo1971 Thu 18-May-17 13:13:30

Girls are going through puberty earlier these days and need to know about the birds and bees. Kids generally get exposed to stuff earlier on TV etc, and there will always be the 'mature' friend at school who confuses them with half-truths and terminology which is not understood. My 5 year old knows that mum needs 'nappies' sometimes, and my 9 year old son knows the basics of sex, labour and periods. I waited until he asked questions last year and gave him 'the talk' over a couple of weeks so he could digest the basics.

I don't see this as teacher's work tbh. I think parents have a duty of care to tell their kids how things work etc. The teacher duty should be supplementary.

tobee Thu 18-May-17 13:13:53

I was bought up by a dm who was a marriage guidance counsellor and then a social worker for unmarried (teen) mums, so I learnt all this stuff through my dm and pamphlets she had in a normal and open way (this was 1970s/1980s). It was shocking to me then that this wasn't the same for everyone. Constantly there would be the debate "let's have sex education at school" and parents up in arms saying "no, it should be talked about at home" which clearly means "let's not talk about it at home". No wonder we had such a high rate of unplanned teenage pregnancy.

But that it's still going on now? To be honest I think it's a form of child abuse.

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