Ah puberty, that magical moment when a child goes weird and somehow an adult emerges! As sex coaches, we have a unique skill set to help our kids through this rocky period in their self development. And of course, we can extend these skills to our clients to help them be sex positive parents to their own teenagers.
I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and I believe puberty is getting a bad rap. Sure, it’s fraught with awkwardness and mood swings—for parents and teens alike!—but what if it’s also a glorious opportunity?
During the pre-pubescent and pubescent years, there are literally thousands of what teachers like to call “teachable moments,” naturally-occurring situations that present a problem to solve, a question to explore, ethics to consider… essentially the possibility of discovery and growth.
Hear me out: let’s consider puberty as an excuse to explore agency, compassion, and connection. Coincidentally, these three components are necessary for a healthy sexual adulthood—bonus!
Empowering Agency For Sex Positive Puberty
Puberty is a very self-aware time, often painfully so. Bodies do strange things, make new smells, break out in spots, grow in noticeable ways, and create inconvenient moments, ahem. Worse, it feels like everyone is watching. All. The. Time. It’s not fun.
Part of the distress young people experience comes from being overwhelmed and not fully understanding what is happening to them. Emotions can be intense and sometimes unexplainable—even for the person feeling them! Imagine waking up one morning in a body that doesn’t feel like your own and being expected to carry on like everything is normal. Not cool.
How can parents, guardians, and trusted adults help? Agency is all about knowing your needs and being able to act or communicate to take care of yourself. The first step is to understand yourself and be able to identify what you want and need. So what if we showed young ones how to tune into their bodies with wonder and fascination?
- Help them name their feelings. Teenage feelings are more complex than what they felt as toddlers—possibly the last time feelings were explicitly discussed like this! The ability to distinguish being stressed from an overwhelming load of homework or from being worried about a disagreement between friends will enable your teen to identify the next steps to take. [Read more: “The Body is the Gateway to the Heart”]
- Teach self-care, including hygiene, stress-management, and pleasure. Bonus: be a self-care role-model! Talk about how exercise helps you feel strong, processes adrenaline, and produces endorphins. If you’re going to bed early because you are tired and want to feel bright in the morning, go ahead and say so. [Read more: “Self Care for Sex Coaches”]
- Help identify triggers and outlets for stress, excitement, and intense emotions. Again, knowing that an overwhelming load of school work can mess with falling asleep might be a motivation to figure out a schedule or organizational structure to track tasks. [Read more: “How to Handle Emotional Triggers in a Sex Coaching Session”]
- LISTEN and be interested. Create safety by truly and deeply listening, without feeling the need to always fix things for your teenager. Sometimes all they need is validation that their thoughts and feelings make sense.
- Ask open-ended questions, allowing space and time for the response. Ask questions that help your emerging young adult find their own solutions.
The skills of self-awareness, self-care, and communication will support your young person as they start to navigate the world with increasing independence. They will also be essential in relationships when they will need to negotiate boundaries and communicate their feelings and needs.
Sex Positive Puberty Involves Developing Compassion
The good news about puberty is that as lone-wolf as it might seem, it doesn’t have to be. The other kids are going through this, too, and even though it might seem like this is a personal hell, it’s safe to guess that your child’s peers are having similar feels.
The teachable moment here is one of compassion. These years are a chance to open eyes, recognize the suffering of others, and choose kindness when possible. Yes, there may be bullies and unkindness, and I’m not saying ignore that or try to fight fists with flowers. Obviously, no.
The suggestion is to help your young person see beyond another person’s embarrassing moment and notice the individual inside, the way they would also want to be seen. The goal is not to feel another person’s pain or sadness (empathy) but to notice and be supportive, or at least to not cause further harm.
Compassion can help kids reframe perceived slights and misunderstandings among friends. It can also open a conversation to help them distinguish between what they are feeling and what a friend might be feeling or thinking.
We hear a lot about kindness and caring for one another in a variety of social settings. This kindness begins among our peers and in our own families, classrooms, teams, and communities. In relationships and community, we need to be able to recognize how other people feel and respond accordingly. We also need to be able to recognize the distinction between our own feelings and those of others.
Communication Is an Essential Part
All this leads to one of my favorite topics as a sexologist: communication. Communication is an essential part of sex positive puberty. Naming feelings, needs, and desires is like a superpower. So many people don’t know how to ask for what they want, let alone what they need.
If we can support young people in learning and practicing these skills, not only will they have an advantage in self-awareness and self-management, they will be better prepared for adult interactions and relationships.
One benefit of keeping the lines of communication open and modeling how to talk about feelings, bodies, and life, is that parents and guardians establish themselves as the trusted adult to go to when problems arise. This offers young adults a layer of security they need but will likely never request. It’s an organic relationship, based on trust and your ability to see your young person with appreciation for who they are, not necessarily who you want them to be.
In this light, it is your responsibility to be willing to talk and share information that is accurate, helpful, and relevant. More importantly, it’s essential to provide that safe space where your young person can express themselves authentically and still be supported as they resolve their concerns. Isn’t that all any of us want: to be loved exactly the way we are?
Our sex coach training has prepared us to be the sex positive parents we want to be. We know how to hold space, create safe containers, model effective and compassion communication, and engage in self care. By learning to teach these things to clients, we also have the skills to guide our own kids through sex positive puberty. And our clients’ teenagers get to benefit from our conscious, sex positive approach to parenting, as well.