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Making babies, puberty before it hits & teenage development

The facts

  • Puberty starts between 8 and 13 for girls, and 9 and 14 for boys, says Childline. But adolescence is now thought to end at 24 and the brain keeps developing to age 30

  • 52% of 11- to 16-year-olds regularly worry about how they look, according to Be Real’s Somebody Like Me report

  • A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image found that 75% of people hold the media, advertising and celebrity culture primarily responsible for body-image attitudes – but that supportive family and friends were fundamental
    to enhancing self-esteem

Only 1% of parents use the word “vulva” with their children, 44% use a euphemism like “flower” or “fairy” – and 20% don’t speak to their daughters about that part of their bodies at all!

See 10 tips for using correct terms & talking openly about bodies at #EducatingEve

Use correct terms for body parts as well as family nicknames so as not to convey body shame. Would you say “tootsies” without ever using the word ”toes”?


Lexx Brown-James’s book These Are My Eyes, This Is My Nose, This Is My Vulva, These Are My Toes can help!


With girls – and boys – look at…


Pink Protest

Bloody Good Period

Periods Matter (Sex Ed Matters)


They’re validations of women’s experiences, they’re raising awareness and their activism is normalising the conversation


Point out unrealistic bodies in toys, ads, films, media. Body-image and mental-health campaigner Natasha Devon’s Channel 4 show Naked Beach teaches us that being around body-confident people makes a positive impact. So try to model body comfortableness. Don’t talk about dieting, say “ugly” or emphasise looks & appearance. And look at the Be Real pledge

A helpful tone on the topic of body image falls somewhere between realistic, empathic  and encouraging:


“I remember having a real problem with my tummy. It’s tough but a lot of people struggle with how they look then find new ways of looking at it. You will too”

“Being active in other areas
– such as clubs, sports or hobbies – where your young person can excel is a good way to ensure that their body image is not so central to their identity”

How To Help Your Child With Their Body Image 

– Parenting NI

Boys too struggle with body-image pressures from friends, social media, ads and celebs. See Dr Ranj Singh’s The Boys’ Biggest Conversation video

For younger boys & girls try the Embrace song from Body Image Movement, its strength & action worksheets plus its super parent advice resource

If there’s one thing that school does pretty well it’s puberty, so your children should be equipped with the facts, but it’s worth reading KidsHealth’s Understanding Puberty guide for parents or this more technical (and very useful) guide from Hey Sigmund. We guarantee you didn’t already know it all!

“First moon” or “red tent” parties – yes or no? Test the waters with this comedy video (totally age appropriate for a 10-year-old).

Use it as a way in
to discuss if and how you and your daughter would
like to celebrate
her first period.


See also the great Period Fairy

“I used to be terrified to ever show parts of my body that
I didn’t think were perfect. Learning that perfection doesn’t exist and that beauty lies in those flaws and those individualities and nuances
is just the most liberating
thing ever…”

– actor Aimee Lou Wood, who plays Aimee in Sex Education

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Don’t expect a barrage of puberty questions, even if school is abuzz with who’s got what so far. Ask your child if talk about bodies is troubling them.


Your key messages: “Puberty happens to people at different times – even up to age 24!” and “We all end up looking unique – isn’t that great though?” 

More help with #Bodies&BodyImage
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FULL BLOOM PROJECT  |  By parents for parents
The ABCs of Body-Positive Parenting is an A-Z of questions to get you thinking about how to change family attitudes around eating, junk food & being judgmental and how to encourage self-esteem. We like the research-based approach  Go to Full Bloom Project >
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HEY SIGMUND  |  Guide for Parents

A great guide that doesn’t ignore emotional and psychological as well as physical developments. (See also Preparing For (And Surviving) Puberty, aimed at parents of children with a learning disability)  Go to Hey Sigmund >

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HANNAH WITTON  |  The Hormone Diaries

Young sex and relationships YouTuber Hannah Witton has a series called The Hormone Diaries – including Things You Should Learn About Periods in School. Point your daughter or son this way  Watch Hannah >

AMAZE  |  Sex education animation

With clear, often humorous animations for kids on sex, relationships, growing up etc and videos for parents, AMAZE aims for “more info, less weird”. Listen to their short Become An Askable Parent podcasts here. AMAZE Jr covers ages 4-9   Go to AMAZE >

MAMA BEAR EFFECT  |  Body safety awareness for kids

Devoted to getting families to communicate so as to prevent child sexual abuse, the Mama Bear Effect has great posters for parents and fantastic ones for kids on body safety here plus colouring pages & other materials  Go to the Mama Bear Effect >

Remember: every child is different. Adjust these suggestions for the age and stage of your child. Children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who have experienced abuse may all need different support.


If you’re in doubt about your child’s emotional, physical or psychological development, please seek the advice of a professional

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