P word preparations: Puberty!

Zowie Kaye's avatar

by Zowie Kaye

My son is about to start year 5 primary this September; back in year 3 when we had his annual EHC Plan review, I was discussing with his support network about emotional maturity and my concerns. 

They advised me that at about age 8 children start to develop this and naturally within typical children girls are much more advanced than boys anyway but it would be about this time that I probably start to notice a bigger gap between Cameron and others his age, in that he is likely to be delayed in developing this.

I found my first hurdle was explaining the meaning of the word “embarrassment”, this is a key emotion that we all go through within our puberty years. 

I felt by being able to explain this emotion first of all would set us up in good stead for discussions that would then follow.

Have you actually ever tried to sit down and explain an emotion though?? People can feel embarrassed in all kinds of situations.

It can be a general feeling, for example when you meet someone new and find it difficult to talk to them – Cameron said this sounds like you are being shy, and yes he’s right.

Sometimes it’s a particular thing that makes you feel embarrassed – like saying something which came out wrong, or doing something you think other people will laugh at – Cameron said that this sounds like feeling worried, and yes he is also right. 

Other people’s behaviour can embarrass you too. Someone’s nasty comments about you can make you feel awkward or humiliated – Cameron said that this sounds like feeling upset, and yes he is right about this too.

So I had still not been able to clarify the emotion for him.  Work in progress.

Cameron then said one day a few months later “I dropped my juice bottle in the hall and everyone looked at me and I felt embarrassed” – I was so pleased that he understood the feeling and that he had pinpointed it, yet obviously gutted for him experiencing this. 

On another occasion after swimming he said “I’m going to cover my private parts as I don’t want to be embarrassed if anyone sees me!” …….. I think we have cracked it.

I was able to reassure him that whatever he’s feeling embarrassed about, remember that it’s natural to feel this way.

Everyone gets embarrassed. And we all do things that we feel a bit silly about. Or things we wish we'd done differently or not at all.

It’s impossible to get things right all the time – Cameron said “practice makes perfect mum”.

Imagine my horror then when my 9-year-old asks me the following:

“Mum you know those bits in front of my private parts can I cut them off” I froze in horror and asked him what did he mean, he told me he has some hairs and he feels embarrassed and wants to shave them like I do my legs.

Reality hit me at that moment that yes he is autistic and young but these changes are not going to be nice for any young person this age. 

I am lucky that he is high functioning and has the knowledge and vocabulary to be able to have suitable conversations. 

We had a sit down and I explained that boys have hair grow all over their body and it has to stay there in its place, I made reference to his dad and uncle and others with plenty of body hair for reference – he felt a bit better.

I always remember my mum saying to me:

“it doesn’t get easy as they get older, challenges are still challenges – the problems to conquer just become more complex!”

I logged onto Amazon and bought some books about the body and transitions, it’s something that I’m now trying to work into daily conversations. 

By far I am finding this my biggest challenge with the sensitive nature of the topic.

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