Brook Education and Wellbeing Specialist, Ramoya Randall, explains 5 top tips for teaching puberty to young people in an inclusive and effective way.
As many of us are aware, puberty is a roller-coaster of changes that everyone experiences. This can be particularly overwhelming for young people if they are uninformed, especially as the speed that these changes happen will be different for everybody.
Education around puberty should include definitions on puberty and take into account that each individual experience of puberty will be unique, as well as helping young people understand the changes that may occur during this time so that we can equip them with strategies to manage these challenges.
We should aim to create lessons that explore both the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty, so that young people have better ways of managing the process of growing up.
Here are 5 top tips for teaching excellent puberty education.
1. Get in early
One of the key tips of delivering lessons around puberty is aiming the sessions before young people experiencing these changes, so that they can be better prepared and have the knowledge to understand these changes, which can sometimes seem scary. It can also provide them with where to go for help if they need it.
2. Create a safe space
Puberty may be one of the first conversations young people have in relation to sex, relationships and their own bodies. It is essential that this is done in a safe and inclusive manner and one of the easiest ways of achieving this is by creating a safe space.
RSE/PHSE lessons will often require a different approach to teaching, than other parts of the curriculum, as it touches on more personal/sensitive topics. Establishing ground rules, confidentiality and a clear outcome for each lesson will ensure young people have a sense of direction and know what to expect in each session and are not caught off guard. This will also be a great space to reiterate the importance of gender-neutral language in order to be inclusive of people of trans experience or gender diverse young people.
3. Find out what they already know
Ensure we establish what prior knowledge young people may have; this enables you to not only correct any misconceptions they may have but give correct information and definitions.
It reinforces that puberty is different for everyone, takes different lengths of time and happens at different ages for everyone so there is no point comparing themselves to others.
Puberty is when people start to change from being a child to an adult and our hormones send signals which change our bodies but can also impact the way we think and feel and these changes are no matter what form they may take, normal.
4. Make your lessons inclusive
There is a need to explore in more details what changes happen to boys, and those with a penis and to girls, and those with vulvas may experience. I would encourage these lessons to be in mixed capacity where possible as I think this creates a safer and much more inclusive environment particularly when considering the needs of Intersex and young people of trans experience.
This also ensures that young people in a broader context are more aware and tolerable of their peers and the changes they may be experiencing.
However, this may not work in every instance with the young people you are working with, and some young people may feel more comfortable and able to be explore the topic more in depth in single gender lessons and this should also be taken into consideration as young people’s needs are paramount. They should be taught about puberty that happens to all genders, not just their own even if they are not attending mixed classes.
5. Use visual and physical resources
Where possible, use visual and physical resources to help young people with practical application of what they are being taught, especially when discussing periods. This normalising of the topic and what is often seen as an awkward conversation can make young people feel more comfortable and understand the topic better. It also allows demonstrating the correct application of and information about available products which young people may not have had the opportunity to explore before. This could extend to conversations about hygiene, soaps and deodorants.
Bonus Tip: Use our FREE resources!
Brook has some great free resources available on their website, including a printable handout to use in lessons, as well as an online learning course created in partnership with Lil-Lets that includes lesson plans and activities which are written, tried and tested by expert Brook staff.