Puberty and Adolescent Development — a workshop for parents
The following learning activity is for parents. It is designed to help them understand the physical and emotional changes that occur in adolescents during puberty and to be comfortable answering questions about puberty. It includes the following sections:
At the completion of this workshop, parents will:
- Describe the physical and emotional changes that occur in adolescents during puberty, and
- Comfortably answer common questions about puberty.
One hour and 30 minutes
- Gather the materials listed for this session including an appropriate number of puberty pamphlets.
- Write session learning objectives on flipchart paper.
- Draw an outline of a boy's body and a girl's body on two separate pieces of flipchart paper or enlarge the Girl's Body Outline and Boy's Body Outline included in this learning activity.
- Write "Questions about Puberty" guidelines on flipchart paper.
- Make sufficient copies of:
- "Find Someone Who" icebreaker handout
- "Questions About Puberty" handout
- Diagrams of male and female reproductive systems
Introduction (15 minutes)
- Welcome parents to the workshop and introduce yourself.
- Tell the parents that you want to give them an opportunity to get to know each other. Distribute the "Find Someone Who" handout and pencils to each parent. Tell parents that they have three minutes to get signatures or an "X" from others in the room who have what is represented in each of the nine boxes represented in the handout. For example, if you find someone who knows how to ride a bicycle, ask him or her to sign or put an "X" in that box. You may want to quickly explain what each picture represents for those parents with limited reading skills.
- After three minutes, ask parents to find their seats. Call out each representation in each of the boxes. By a show of hands, find out how many parents received signatures. As you process responses, make sure each parent tells the group his/her name. Make sure to end this activity on the box representing a parent talking to his/her child about sexuality/puberty.
- Acknowledge that many parents may have already spoken with their children about puberty and sexuality. Congratulate them for doing so. Ask parents to raise their hands if they have had an opportunity to talk with their children about sexuality. Ask a few parents to talk about their experiences.
- Tell parents that tonight's workshop is designed to support them in their efforts. Tell them that the workshop is designed in a very participatory style. Parents' opinions and ideas are extremely important. We are all here to learn from each other.
Defining Puberty (5 minutes)
- Remind parents that tonight's workshop will focus on puberty and adolescent development. Review the learning objectives (written on flipchart paper) with parents. Tell them that much of tonight's workshop may be a review for them. However, it has been your experience that many parents have forgotten what they once knew about puberty and growing up. Write the word "puberty" on flipchart paper.
- Ask parents to turn to their neighbors and take one minute to share what comes to mind when they think of the time when they were going through puberty. You may want to pose some prompting questions like:
- How old were you?
- What changes do you remember?
- How did you feel about those changes?
- After one minute, ask parents to share their thoughts with the rest of the group. Record their responses on flipchart paper. Be sure that the group has a good definition for puberty before moving on to the next step of this activity.
PUBERTY is the time in a human being's life when he or she changes from boyhood or girlhood to manhood or womanhood. This is the period of time in a person's life when it becomes physiologically possible to reproduce. Puberty usually begins between the ages of 9 and 16 years. Each body will know when it's the right time to begin puberty for him or her. Generally, boys begin puberty about two years after girls. Puberty is not a month-long process; it actually takes several years to complete all the changes.
Puberty can be an exciting time; it can also be confusing, awkward and scary for young people. Having a parent who is willing to talk about the changes is one thing that can help make puberty easier for young people.
Physical and Emotional Changes (35 minutes)
- Tell parents that we will explore the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty. The purpose of reviewing these changes is to be better able to explain them to our children. Encourage parents to ask questions about things that are unclear or new to them.
- Ask parents to think back to the time when they were going through puberty. Display two body outlines of a boy and a girl on flipchart paper (or enlarged versions of the outlines included with this learning activity.) Ask for two parents to volunteer to help you draw on these diagrams. Ask parents to give you some of the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty. Remind them that the physical changes that occur during puberty can occur inside and outside the body.
- As parents mention changes, volunteer parents should do their best to draw the changes with colorful markers on the outlines. At the same time, you should take the opportunity to explain why these changes occur. (Refer to "Background Information for the Facilitator.") In some cases, you may want to explain what should be done about changes. For example, to deal with an increase in perspiration, take regular showers or use a mild deodorant.
Refer to "Background Information for the Facilitator" for a list of physical and emotional changes occurring during puberty.
- Once the physical changes are reviewed, pass out the reproductive systems' diagrams and use them to more fully describe the process of ovulation and menstruation in girls and ejaculation in boys. Refer to "Background Information for the Facilitator" for information about these processes.
Answering Questions About Puberty (30 minutes)
- Tell the group that given the review they have just had about puberty, they will now have an opportunity to practice answering some questions that 11-13 year-olds might ask about puberty.
- Pass out puberty pamphlets to parents.
- Give parents some basic guidelines to answering questions about puberty. Post these guidelines on flipchart paper. These guidelines should include:
- Stay calm.
- LISTEN to your child first. Do not interrupt.
- Find out what your child might already know about the issue.
- Give factual information.
- Keep your answers brief.
- If you share your values, explain why you have your values.
- It's okay to say "I don't know," but follow up as soon as possible.
- Ask parents to divide into smaller groups of two or three. Ask each group to practice answering two or three of the questions (depending on time) on the "Questions about Puberty" handout with each other. Ask parents to first choose the two questions they would like to practice. Once they have chosen two questions, the group should discuss together what an appropriate answer would sound like. After this work is done, they should conduct a role play in their small group with one parent playing the "child" and another playing the "parent." Remind them to use the guidelines just discussed. Give parents about 10 minutes to do this task.
- Reconvene the large group and ask each smaller group to read their questions out loud and give the answers they prepared in their group. Allow the larger group to comment or ask questions. Correct any misinformation when appropriate. After all the smaller groups have participated, facilitate a large group discussion using the following questions:
- How did it feel to answer the questions?
- Were the questions easy or difficult to answer? What made a question difficult to answer?
- Did your small group have trouble agreeing on the answers?
- How important is knowing your values about sexuality — in addition to the facts about puberty — when answering questions?
- Were you surprised by any of the answers you heard tonight?
- How will you use what we did tonight with your family?
- Ask for two parents who would be willing to act out in front of the group a talk between a parent and child using one of the questions on their handout. Encourage the group to give feedback (positive and constructive) to the parents acting out the talk.
- You may want to address some of the questions that were not chosen by parents, especially those questions that parents may have thought were too sensitive or difficult.
Summary (5 minutes)
- Ask parents to share one new or interesting thing they learned tonight. Review with parents that puberty can be an exciting and insecure time in an adolescent's life. Parents play a very important role in educating their children about the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty. Parental support and understanding during this time is very important. Parents also play a key role in teaching their children about their values related to growing up, sexuality and relationships. School, pamphlets, and health care providers can support parents in teaching their children, but only parents themselves can teach children their values.
- Thank the parents for their participation and time.