At 19, Margaux remembers: “I had been told a little about puberty but there were still plenty of gray areas. With my friends, we looked for answers in specialized guides for girls. My parents were very modest. My mom thought I knew what the rules were. We discussed this when I first had them. She advised me to wrap my used sanitary napkin in toilet paper, to hide it from everyone’s eyes, even in the trash! Today, I have the impression that it is less difficult to broach the subject. “
Not so sure, given the results of a survey conducted among college students (read the benchmarks), who mostly consider the rules as a taboo and who, at the same time, are very numerous to ask for more information on this subject.
→ TESTIMONIALS. Puberty, a subject still quite taboo
Of course, we come from a society where, unlike early childhood which gives rise to a plethora of educational manuals, the accompaniment of upheavals linked to puberty is little treated. Everyone must manage them as best they can. “The appearance of the first signs of puberty, also called secondary sexual characteristics, such as hair growth or breast growth, begins before adolescence, sometimes even very early, in cases of precocious puberty”, recalls Gaëlle Baldassari, founder of Kiffe ton cycle (1).
“Everyone will avoid broaching the subject”
In girls, menstruation usually comes two years later. Often parents feel they need to explain sexuality along with the menstrual cycle. “This is a major mistake because these are two different discussions, explains Gaëlle Baldassari. It is important to make them understand what is going on inside their body before talking about sexuality. When puberty and sexuality are disconnected, then everything becomes easier for parents. “
Easier to talk about it perhaps, but no less difficult to live with. On the psychological level, indeed, puberty upsets families. For Arthur Leroy (2), psychologist and psychoanalyst, this process is comparable to a “work of mourning”: “Mourning for the idea of the eternal child, in a state of dependence on his parents, in a centrifugal movement of the family that has been built around the child. “
Puberty puts an end to this ideal, this suspended time. ” She also opens the door, indicates the psychologist, to a metamorphosis that the preteen – especially the boy – does not master and which worries him. And also worries his parents. In order not to harm the family, everyone will avoid bringing up this subject. The child then finds himself caught in a movement of loneliness and isolation which he needs to reclaim this body in transformation. “
The need to be reassured
Parents can nevertheless help their child to live this period in a more serene way, by accompanying him with tolerance and understanding. “ It is essential to maintain dialogue, exchange and be present while respecting a certain distance. If communication has trouble getting through, we can offer him a third space where he can express himself ”, adds Arthur Leroy.
Each family manages puberty in its own way. The situations are very variable. In general, “Tweens talk a little more about puberty transformations with their parents, but in some cases there is no dialogue”, notes Amélie Laurent. For this educator in a school environment on relational, emotional and sexual life, what has changed, “It is the over-information by the media, the social networks and the great confusion which results from it”.
In the workshops given in sixth grade, boys and girls separated, Amélie Laurent shares their representations (“the first time you have your period, does that cause a pool of blood?”), Reassure them and explain to them how their body works, the transformations that it will undergo in order to give life. “It’s about making them discover or realize that puberty has meaning. “ Parents also need to be reassured. According to Amélie Laurent, also marriage and family counselor, “The majority of them do not know what words to use, do something complicated about it, while being reassured to know that the school will take care of these subjects”.
Open the door to dialogue
However, parents have a major role to play, before the first signs of puberty appear, first by explaining to their child where they come from, their origins, then by recording the changes to come in their history. This is the whole point of the Vivlavie workshops, offered by Le Cler (3): simply talking about puberty, to small groups of father-son and mother-daughter pairs.
“Many parents are relieved to hear the right information alongside their child, expressed in correct, respectful and sensitive words”, indicates Édith Berlizot, marriage and family counselor and co-creator of these workshops which address the functioning of the body, the transformations of puberty (hairiness, acne, voice, breasts, hips, etc.), the role of the genitals in the production of cells of life, the female cycle, the first periods, nocturnal seminal losses. Half of each session is devoted to parent-child discussions around three essential questions: ” Who am I ? “, ” where I come from ? “ (conception, pregnancy, birth), ” or I’ll ? “ The idea is to open the door to dialogue on intimate subjects.
→ VIDEO. Serge Tisseron: “Before puberty, the effects of pornography are devastating”
In a society that has become hypersexualized, parents are pushed to take their place. “We can no longer remain silent, out of modesty or fear of being intrusive. If a word is not asked by a reference person (parents or mediators), others will take care of it for us ”, warns Édith Berlizot, convinced that her workshops also offer a tool for preventing pornography.
Rules, a subject worth discussing
49% of French women consider menstruation as a difficult subject in the family.
54.7% feel they lack information at puberty. 27% have a complicated relationship with their cycle, because they were not well supported at the start.
54% of young girls and 73% of boys consider it taboo the subject of the rules. But only 27% of parents. 77% of girls and 76% of boys want more information in college.
31% of young girls have experienced their first period like a difficult time.
(Studies 2020, Kiffe ton cycle and Essity)