Puberty and Sexual Health

As parents, you are already teaching your children many things about puberty and have been since the day they were born. They learn from you:

  • The way their bodies feel to them
  • The words that family members use (and don't use) to refer to parts of the body
  • About relationships, by watching people around them
  • About male/female roles by observing

Parents are sometimes afraid of talking about puberty because:

  • Talking about reproductive body parts and how they work makes them uncomfortable; the topic may not have come up when they were young
  • They wonder if talking about reproduction will encourage their child to experiment. In fact, young people whose parents discuss all aspects of sexuality openly, tend to delay becoming sexually active, compared to youth whose parents do not raise this topic
  • They are not sure what their children need to know and when they need to know it

Parents should...

Parents should provide the guidance and knowledge their children need to become responsible, happy adults. They should:

  • Answer questions honestly. Tell their children what they want to know using words they can understand
  • Provide correct information
  • Start conversations. Some children never ask about puberty, but parents can start a conversation by using everyday situations, such as watching a TV show or noticing how their children's bodies are growing
  • Share their beliefs, concerns and values; children need to know where their parents stand
  • Help their children make good decisions and stand by their decisions

Adapted from the Alberta - Teaching Sexual Health website.


Sexual Health Education Starts at Home

"The Talk" from Tots to Teens

Grades 5 and 6: what children learn about puberty at school

Some students may be a bit nervous hearing about their changing body in front of classmates. One way parents can help is by knowing what their children are learning in school. Grade 5 and 6 teachers can access the Region of Waterloo Public Health's Changing Me Puberty Kit to teach the Puberty curriculum.

Children will learn that...

  • Puberty starts when hormone levels start increasing in the body; it usually starts between the ages of 8 and 16, and lasts a few years
  • Everyone is different and it does not matter when one starts puberty 
  • There are signs they are starting puberty, such as a:
    • Growth spurt that includes increased size of testicles for boys and the appearance of breast buds for girls
    • Hair growth in new places (underarm and pubic area)
    • Menstruation
    • Body odour
    • Lower voice in boys

Many parents feel more confident about talking to their children once they know what words to use and how much information to give.

Grades 9-12: Sexual Health Services in Waterloo Region Schools

Waterloo Region District School Board

Public Health Nurses are available at Waterloo Region District School Board secondary schools for one half day each week to provide one-on-one counselling, education, support and resources to students on a range of topics, including abstinence. To learn more about sexual health services offered in schools, see the Enhancing Sexual Health Services in Waterloo Region District School Board Secondary Schools document.

Waterloo Catholic District School Board

Sexual Health Nurses are available to provide curriculum-support to Waterloo Catholic District School Board secondary schools upon request.

Region of Waterloo Public Health continues to work with the Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to enhance sexual health services and/or education in elementary and secondary schools, in keeping with the boards' curriculum and faith perspectives.

Sexual Health Clinics for Youth

There are two youth-focused sexual health clinics offered in Waterloo Region: one in downtown Kitchener and one in Cambridge near the Cambridge Centre shopping mall.

Youth can by seen by a Public Health Nurse or Nurse Practitioner for all sexual health-related concerns including suspected pregnancy, birth control (including emergency contraception, e.g. Plan B), condoms, relationship concerns, and STI testing.

No appointment is necessary and youth do not need a health card to access the clinic.

Region of Waterloo Public Health clinics are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) positive.

Click here for clinic locations and times.

This service is part of the Waterloo Region Sexual Health Youth Strategy. Click here for more information.

Links and resources

Parents can borrow books from our Public Health Resource Centre, 519-883-2256, or

For more information about sexual health, check the Sexual Health page.

For more information about puberty, visit the the Alberta - Teaching Sexual Health website.