It’s important for dad to notice and want to help.

By Dr. Shelly Metten
Shelly MettenEach year on Father’s Day our children make precious gifts and write adorable cards to thank dads for the special ways they have loved them through the year. These cards are a treasure. This year I want to suggest an unconventional way you can show your love to your children that will change their lives forever. My suggestion is to take time along the way to guide them through the many changes they are going to experience as puberty approaches, and later initiate discussions that will help them make healthy choices as they sexually mature.

Your children are thinking about their bodies even if they are not saying anything to you. The little three-year-old notices the differences between his body and his sister’s. The preteen might not be very expressive and may even pull away when you try to explore his thoughts but deep down he feels uncertain about what is happening to him. The advantage of initiating the conversation and letting your child know what is going to happen before it does is that they will be more likely to talk to you when they start feeling the changes and beyond.

The challenge for dads is to consider how you feel about discussing these topics with your children. Just reading this article probably brings some feelings to the surface. The most caring dad can hesitate to talk to his kids about puberty because he just cannot believe they are old enough to need that information, even though puberty is upon them. There are other reasons for delaying these conversations that stem from a variety of personal thoughts and feelings. Whatever might be holding you back, it is so important that dads push through and start these important conversations before the kids notice the changes. It is especially meaningful that dad is taking time to notice and wants to help.

I am hopeful that together we can raise children in this generation who are empowered with information about their bodies, and who had a loving parent set the foundation for them to make healthier choices as they matured. Maybe, “thank you for talking to me about what is changing inside,” isn’t a conventional Father’s Day card sentiment, but your children will be forever grateful they had such a caring father.

Dr. Shelley Metten is a celebrated educator and anatomist who recently retired from the faculty of the UCLA Medical School to pursue her dream to educate children about their bodies. Dr. Metten is a mother of two children and grandmother to seven adorable little grandchildren.