Parenting a tweenager (around 9-12 years old), when puberty begins can be a stressful time for the whole household, with hormones running rampant, bodies sprouting hair, new smells, and kids trying to figure out what is normal. Below is a list of books (with information about them below each one) for you and /or your child to read during this time, to help everyone out.
Some more tips before having “the talk” with your child (or any talk, really):
- Try to be calm and open about the topic (pay attention to your body language and tone of voice).
- Avoid shame.
- Accept & support their feelings.
- Set rational and consistent limits.
- Encourage your child to ask you questions, and to learn that coming to you with their thoughts is never bad.
- “Everything You NEVER Wanted Your Kids To Know About Sex (but were afraid they’d ask)” by Richardson & Schuster
This is really the best book for parents to read on the subject. It tackles every stage of development, as well as other topics, such as homosexuality. I recommend starting to read this book when your child is young, although it’s never too late to learn.
- “The Care & Keeping of YOU 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls” by Natterson, from AmericanGirl
This is the most popular puberty book in the market. My tween patients report that they love this book. It goes over what to expect in puberty, and how to take care of girls’ changing bodies. It is full of illustrations. Rated age 8-10, this book is best before puberty really starts. Once puberty is in full swing, the 2nd version of this book is better (see below).
- “The Care & Keeping of YOU 2: The Body Book for Older Girls” by Natterson, from AmericanGirl
Rated age 10-12, this book is the second in the series, not a newer version of the first. It is for girls with some understanding of puberty, who need more details. It goes over the physical and emotional changes of puberty, but also practicalities, such as how to insert a tampon. It still has a simple writing style and lots of illustrations, so it is not recommended for older teenagers.
- “Guy Stuff: the Body Book for Boys” by Natterson
This is the boy’s equivalent book to the popular girl version “The Care and Keeping of YOU 1” mentioned above. It is rated age 9-12, but having read it, I think it is more for 8-10 year olds. Every page is full of illustrations, and it covers just the basics of puberty: changing body, changing voice, mood, bullying, shaving, eating well, exercising, but not sex. Unfortunately, there is no part 2 for older boys.
- “Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen” by Middelman & Pfeifer, from The American Medical Association
This is the book I like to use for older tween and teen boys. It has simple, but thorough, medically accurate information about growing, puberty, and sex. There is a chapter on masturbation. There are still some cartoonish pictures and it does not go into a lot of detail, so it is probably best for ages 10-13.
- “Let’s Talk About S-E-X” by Gitchell & Foster, from Planned Parenthood
Rated for ages 9-12, this book is meant to be read by tweens and their parents, to help with understanding and open discussion. The end of many sections have questions to open discussion and learn. The end of the book has a section to help parents talk to their kids about sex. It also lists websites for tweens, teens, and parents, to further the discussion, with good, age-appropriate information. Despite the name of the book, it does not go into depth about sex, but does provide basic, medically accurate information, without shame. I highly recommend this book for all families with kids starting puberty.
- “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation” by Criswell, from AmericanGirl
Tips, techniques, and actual suggested conversations for how to handle more than 200 situations common for tweens. Rated age 8-12. Helps kids handle real life. Part of the Smart Girls series, but good for all genders.
- “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Drama, Rumors & Secrets: Staying True to Yourself” by Holyoke, from AmericanGirl
Reviews indicate younger kids and those starting middle school tend to get the most out of this, but a lot of the book talks about social media or phone etiquette, which may not be useful to younger girls. Rated age 8-12. Best read by both tweens and their parents, to help open up discussion, as well as help kids with the drama they may face at school. My only critique is that this is written for girls, when it could be written regardless of gender.
- “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health” by Harris & Emberley
This book is rated for age 10 and up, and is the best selling book in “children’s sexuality” on Amazon, but it is not my favorite. It has a lot of information, including topics such as birth control and abortion, but still uses cartoons, which may make it unappealing to older kids. It is good for younger tweens, if you do not mind them reading about all topics on sexuality, and want to discuss it with them afterwards.
For books recommendations for younger children, please see my previous blog post on the topic: Private Parts.
For information on protecting your child from sexual abuse, as well as talking about sex, I recommend The Mama Bear Effect.
For families of trans youth, I recommend starting with The TransYouth Family Allies, as well as the resources from one of the large trans youth centers at most major children’s hospitals. Here in Los Angeles, both CHLA and UCLA have centers to help trans children.
Note: cover photo borrowed from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-difficult-subjects