Growth and Development

Talking to Your Child about Puberty

Puberty is a time of both physical and emotional change. These changes occur because of hormones in the body. Puberty usually starts between 8 and 16 years in girls and between 12 and 18 years old in boys. 

It is important to know what physical, emotional and social changes your child is going through. This will help you answer their questions and better understand where your child is coming from. Find out what your child already knows and build on that or clarify if you need to.

Girls and boys will go through similar changes. Some changes that may occur during puberty include:

  • Mood changes - may feel moody, insecure (especially about the way they look), embarrassed or awkward
  • More independent - may spend more time with friends or alone than with you
  • Height and weight changes
  • Physical development
  • Sweat more and can develop body odour

When you notice your child or your child's friends starting puberty, this is a good time to start talking about it. It is important that your child understands that everyone is different and there is no correct time for these changes to happen.

Tips for talking to your child:

  • Explain that the changes are normal and everyone goes through them
  • Be open and honest
  • Listen
  • Answer their questions
  • Be clear
  • Use proper terms for body parts

If you can't answer a question, that's ok. Suggest that you and your child find the answer together.

You do not need to be an expert, for more information visit the Ottawa Public Health web page or the sexualityandu web page.

Resources and Trusted websites

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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