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Pediatrician Cara Natterson and Puberty Educator Vanessa Kroll Bennett Offer Insightful Guidance on Puberty for Contemporary Parents

by Gabriel Martinez
2 comments
Puberty Education

The average age at which puberty begins has shifted approximately two years earlier than it did for the prior generation. Over half of adolescents report grappling with issues related to body image. Moreover, the typical age for a first encounter with pornography is 12 years for males and shortly thereafter for females.

These are some of the key points discussed in the newly released book, “this is so awkward,” intentionally lowercased to address a range of puberty-related topics for modern-day parents. The book is a collaborative effort between pediatrician Cara Natterson, whose “Care & Keeping of You” series has sold upwards of 7 million copies, and Vanessa Kroll Bennett, a puberty educator. Natterson and Bennett, who also co-host “The Puberty Podcast,” are parents to a combined six children, whose ages range from 13 to 20.

Below is an edited version of our interview with Natterson and Kroll Bennett for clarity and brevity.


NATTERSON: Our aim is to offer clarity amidst an overwhelming amount of information. Given the plethora of resources and the ambiguity surrounding their reliability, it was imperative to create a book that amalgamated data, science, and professional expertise into an easily digestible and relatable format.

KROLL BENNETT: Additionally, we observed that the audience seeking this information is not limited to parents; it extends to educators, mentors, coaches, and healthcare professionals. They all require the same caliber of scientific data and guidance that parents do.

AP: One striking aspect of the book is the somewhat indeterminate status of scientific knowledge on puberty, forcing parents to sift through facts on their own.

NATTERSON: Indeed, one area where the science is particularly inconclusive is in understanding the underlying causes of early-onset puberty. We know that certain variables—such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, stress-induced cortisol responses, and antibiotics—likely play a role, but the science has not yet fully elucidated these dynamics.

AP: How has parenting advice evolved over the past decade?

KROLL BENNETT: The advent of technology has significantly disrupted traditional parenting advice. Technology impacts every facet of young lives, but its full effects remain largely uncharted. Topics like sleep, self-esteem, and body image are recurrent, and easy access to online pornography has further complicated matters.

AP: How can parents and children establish a common understanding of language and terminology?

NATTERSON: Using anatomically accurate language ensures everyone is on the same page. It’s also beneficial to engage children in discussions about what specific terms mean to them, as language evolves and children employ shorthand for various social and emotional experiences.

KROLL BENNETT: It’s important to note that children themselves may not have consistent interpretations of terms. For example, the word ‘sex’ can mean different things to different people. Being clear and precise in our language is essential.

AP: Is it challenging for parents to admit their mistakes?

KROLL BENNETT: It can be difficult because parents are inclined to maintain an authoritative stance. However, admitting faults can actually elevate a parent’s standing in their child’s eyes, making them appear more human and approachable.

NATTERSON: Self-assessment and course-correction are vital life skills, and verbalizing these adjustments when they occur is equally important.

KROLL BENNETT: Given the rapid societal changes, adaptability is crucial. That includes the willingness to acknowledge mistakes and make adjustments.

AP: How has the podcast been received?

KROLL BENNETT: We are in our third season and receive tens of thousands of downloads every week, indicating a strong demand for reliable information.

NATTERSON: It’s worth mentioning that 25% of our audience is male, dispelling the stereotype that men are disinterested in these topics.

AP: What impact does social media have on children’s development?

NATTERSON: While there are numerous negative effects, such as the exacerbation of eating disorders, it is incorrect to solely demonize social media. It also provides community, particularly for marginalized groups. The challenge lies in navigating the complexities.

AP: What are some prevailing myths about puberty?

KROLL BENNETT: One common misconception is that boys do not face body image challenges, when in reality they make up half of the demographic dealing with such issues.

NATTERSON: Another myth is the instantaneous sexualization of children upon reaching puberty, a perception exacerbated by the decreasing age at which physical changes occur.


This interview provides a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and complexities surrounding puberty, offering invaluable insights for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals alike.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Puberty Education

What is the main goal of the book “this is so awkward”?

The primary objective of the book “this is so awkward” is to provide reliable and science-backed information on puberty for today’s parents, educators, healthcare providers, and others involved in the upbringing of children. It aims to present data and scientific research in a readable and relatable format.

Who are the authors of the book and what are their credentials?

The book is co-authored by Cara Natterson, a pediatrician known for her “Care & Keeping of You” series, and Vanessa Kroll Bennett, a puberty educator. Natterson’s series has sold over 7 million copies, and Bennett is her co-host on “The Puberty Podcast.” Collectively, they have six children aged between 13 and 20.

What role does technology play in children’s lives according to the authors?

According to the authors, technology has significantly impacted children’s lives, affecting aspects like sleep, self-esteem, and body image. Technology also provides access to online pornography, and its full impact on children is still not entirely understood.

How can parents understand the evolving language and vocabulary used by their children?

The authors suggest two approaches. First, using anatomically correct language ensures everyone is talking about the same things. Second, directly asking children about the meaning of specific words or phrases can provide insights into how language is evolving among youth.

How do the authors suggest parents should handle mistakes in parenting?

The authors advocate for the concept of “do-overs,” where parents admit their mistakes and attempt to rectify them. This not only elevates the parents’ standing in their children’s eyes but also sets a positive example of accountability and human fallibility.

Is the book solely targeted at mothers?

No, the book is intended for a broad audience, including fathers, educators, healthcare providers, and other mentors. In fact, the authors’ podcast has a surprising 25% male listenership, debunking the stereotype that men are not interested in these topics.

What myths about puberty do the authors address?

The authors debunk the myth that boys do not struggle with body image issues and that entering puberty instantaneously turns a child into a sexual being. Both notions are inaccurate and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Does the book cover the negative impact of social media on children?

Yes, the book discusses the adverse effects of social media, such as driving body image issues and eating disorders. However, it also mentions the positive aspects, like providing a community for marginalized children and sometimes even alleviating depression and anxiety.

More about Puberty Education

  • Cara Natterson’s Official Website
  • Vanessa Kroll Bennett’s Profile
  • “The Puberty Podcast” Homepage
  • Study on Early Onset of Puberty
  • Research on Technology’s Impact on Child Development
  • Information on Body Image Issues Among Teens
  • Resources on Parenting Advice for Puberty
  • Article on The Role of Social Media in Child Development

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2 comments

BookLover99 October 15, 2023 - 11:35 am

natterson & kroll r real experts, they kno their stuff, 7 million copies, wow

Reply
AnonymousUser21 October 16, 2023 - 4:08 am

authors seem knowledgeable, they talk abt imp stuff like tech impact on kids, its good 4 parents & teachers.

Reply

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